All words: Bryce Rudow
All photos: James Cullum
We had just had the first real weekend of spring, and that glow of rediscovered sunshine was still noticeable on the faces of every member of 9:30 Club’s crowd Monday night. Everyone there seemed just a bit more refreshed, eager to see two of the hottest up-and-coming acts that, I’m assumingly through a combined effort, sold out not just this historic venue, but most of their stops on this tour.
First up was HAERTS, the New-York based quintet whose fan base most likely evolved from the demographic that worshipped Rumours. Playing to an impressively 75-percent-full early crowd, they owned their mystique and lived up to their buzz band status with a set that from front to back showcased their ability to make melodically strong music that is both feminine and organically powerful.
Let’s just say that I heard two bros confirming with each other that this band was indeed pretty sweet after they crushed their single “Wings.”
But then it was London Grammar’s turn to take over.
And if HAERTS is currently feeling a strong groundswell, London Grammar, having seen their debut album go platinum in Britain, is wondering just how big this wave they’ve caught really is, and feeling hopeful they can ride it out as long as possible. From the minutes the lights went down, the trio from London played like a group who, while young, had earned their road stripes and were starting to understand how to put on a show like veterans.
They opened their set with their album opener “Hey Now,” a song that’s as strong a first statement as you’re ever going to hear. It masterfully borrows just enough from the xx to sound familiar but separates itself with a more assertive attitude that feels closer to the mighty Florence. And when Hannah Reid undersold the “fuck you” in the second verse, she had us all hook, line, and sinker.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQcj4A_DlbA
From there, they churned through fan favorites, a few deep cuts, a new song, and even their stellar cover of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” from the Drive soundtrack. Songs like “Wasting My Young Years” and “Flickers” hit especially hard, but the most fun thing to watch when seeing this group live is how well they play together. They’re still young enough to rely on each other, and whether it’s counting off beats with their hands or making direct eye contact during trickier rhythms, there’s a palpable communal vibe that glows when they play together. Part of me thinks that as talented as percussionist/multi-instrumentalist is Dominic “Dot” Major is, they still need a full-time drummer to beef up their live performances (see: James Blake), but I’d almost be too afraid to fux with this team chemistry*.
Besides, it seems like London Grammar is doing just fine on their own.
*Speaking of chemistry, a peak over at their Wikipedia page told me that the bands origin story goes like this:
“Both vocalist Hannah Reid and guitarist Dan Rothman are originally from London and met in a residence hall at the University of Nottingham during their first year in 2009. Rothman saw a picture of Reid on Facebook with a guitar and sent her a message to see if she wanted to collaborate.”
And I can guarantee you that when Dan Rothman sent that booty call of a Facebook message, he had no way he’d be getting a platinum record out of the deal.