Last night my friends and I went to T.T.’s to watch the local musician Leo Blais open for the well-known Australian quartet, Youth Group. The Boston band The Honors and the Brooklyn band The States were third and fourth on the lineup, respectively.
Blais began his modest set solo with an acoustic guitar. After a couple songs, four band members joined him on stage to incorporate a xylophone, bass guitar, drum kit, electric guitar, and keyboard into most of the songs. Like his studio recordings, much of Blais’ live performance was about the stories he tells in his songs. Although he could have probably gotten by with just playing solo the whole night (his music so much relies on his singer/songwriter qualities), the band added a fuller sound to the live performance.
The Honors were up next. I was surprised that my friends and I had never heard of them, but they seemed like nice guys when I talked to them before the show and I was eager to hear them play for the first time. It’s always nice to meet new local bands and see if they have anything fresh to offer.
There was a reason why I had never heard of them.
The Honors were a dramatic four-piece full of whiny vocals and awkward dynamics. The drummer, who had worn his hair up the whole night, put his hair down for the show and the audience could barely see his face. He tried really hard–too hard–and performed some ostentatious hand tricks with his drumsticks that, although were supposed to be cool, just looked fake. The singer was the same way. He uncontrollably jumped about on stage while belting overdone choruses to his Bravery/Smiths-wannabe songs. Several times throughout the set, he theatrically rolled around the floor on and off stage, forcing the sparse crowd to split and gawk at his embarrassing production. The group simply did not perform cohesively; it was as if each member wanted to be famous for his own reason. The single thing I liked about the set was the band’s MIA “Paper Planes” cover, which they surprisingly performed quite well instrumentally.
Considering The Honors were nothing of a hard act to follow, The States had a good chance of at least lightening the mood. The three-man band that included a bassist, lead singer/lead guitarist, and a drummer, played a set of hard(er) pop/punk rock with fast songs and pounding drums. The lead singer performed the role of a frontman well; he spoke comfortably with the crowd and his antics only strengthened the band’s set. Generally speaking though, the band had no “wow” factor and some of their longer songs could have been cut in half.
Youth Group finally took the stage at midnight. My friend turned to me and asked, “These guys are good, right?” I smiled and let the band speak for themselves. Their set was easily the best part of the night.
Although they were the “biggest” act on the lineup, Youth Group was the most humble in stage presence. Their performances of “What Is A Life,” and “Forever Young,” made up for the rest of the lackluster night. Band member Cameron Emerson-Elliott accentuated the slower songs by adding delicate electric guitar repetitions between choruses, resembling the work of the Dressner brothers from The National. The band played a complete set before ending the night with the song “Shadowland,” the first track off their first U.S. 2005 release, Skeleton Jar.
I left feeling happy to have finally seen Youth Group play live, but disappointed in T.T.’s subpar booking selections. The lineup didn’t do much for Youth Group; other local bands could have better fit the sound and mood of the night. In my opinion, the touring band deserved more. Maybe next time, T.T.’s.