The Honeydogs traveled to The Hamilton from Minnesota to deliver a rockabilly set touched with a flavor of garage rock. Some light harmony, clean cut drums, piano and acoustic guitar were the rock-solid foundation of every song. On songs like “Aubben” these elements mixed together with appealing melodies. Their lyrics fit well rhythmically and were easy to swallow. The Honeydogs are a little whimsical (see the organ part on “Too Close to the Sun,” which also has a great guitar hook) but mostly poppy– sort of like a bluesy, downtrodden They Might Be Giants in their instrumentation (also not in small part because of lyrics like this: “I”m extorted every day on the phone by a robot that will not go away”).
Performance-wise, they were tight. That’s not really surprising considering their first album debuted in 1995. The band could have gotten its drivers’ license by now. ”What Comes After” is a highlight both live and recorded. It’s a slow moving piece expressing the uncertainty that’s so fervent these days (“It’s a steep climb / you never know what’s on the other side… It ain’t about what we know / it’s all about what comes after”). It’s even more impressive that this, among the other 11 songs on their new album by the same name was written in less than a week.
Singer Adam Levy was a gracious host with many friends in the audience calling out song titles (“‘Pins & Dolls?’ What, are you trying to embarrass me now?”). Maybe for this reason he was inclined to share with us. To introduce the finger-pickin’ good “Better Word” (for love), he told us that at the beginning of his career, he wrote a lot of love songs but stopped because he thought someone else could do it a lot better than he did. Before the minor-key “Truth Serum,” he shared the very personal detail that his military enlisted son, that he wrote the song about passed away this year. He also told us he wrote the sunny-melodied “The Good Fight” after the last election, but that he was “in a weird place with politics right now.” This openness about uncertainty, the upbeat melodies and constant lyrical optimism (“Don’t throw in the towel/refuse to concede”) that made this band from middle America kind of all American; bouncing harmony, rollicking organ and acoustic guitar based rock for everyone.
Boston based 5-piece band The Grownup Noise brought their big-boy pants to The Hamilton, opening for the Honeydogs. They played slow, bright, melodic rock akin to Ben Folds Five (it’s piano-based, go figure). Heartbreaking lyrics, like the ones in “Artist Type” (“when beauty is gone will you come back to me… you could be drowned in sorrow calling me from the middle of the street”) pervaded the set. There wasn’t a whole lot of variation in musical style but they did give up some toe-tapping, upbeat rock when they played “Come Sunday,” an unreleased song off their new album. After a couple opening tracks, soft-spoken frontman Paul Hansen said plainly, “This next one is about how artists can be selfish bastards.” On “The Artist Type,” the band showed their elasticity. Most of the members did double and triple musical duty especially on this track—the bassist, drummer and cellist provided harmonies, the keyboardist also played the accordion, the singer/frontman/guitarist also played keyboards. Whatever they were doing, each piece fit together well, particularly with the gloss of Rachel Arnold’s cello making each song sound somehow more like an official sound, underlining the melody lines on each track with a soft vibrating pitch. This was another band with its feet firmly planted on the ground: “Stop trying to predict how this will turn out.”