Words: Courtney Pitman // Photos: Abbas Sabur
Thursday night found one 9:30-sized nook of DC transformed into folk band Lord Huron’s fantastical world of escapism, an Oregon Trail of a musical experience where the destination is the journey itself, but with much lower chance of death from dysentery.
Like their 2012 LP Lonesome Dreams, the band opened quietly with “Ends of the Earth,” singer/founding journeyman Ben Schneider issuing a thesis statement of an opening line: “Oh there’s a river that winds on forever/I’m gonna see where it leads.” The band’s delicate harmonies and casual strumming matched their suited appearance, well-assembled and endearingly folksy, but the sentiment was still a bit hollow when Schneider and co. extended an invitation to the crowd on the first chorus: “To the ends of the Earth would you follow me? There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see.”
The audience bopped along responsively in the first-moments-of-a-show-and-I-hope-my-friend-was-right-about-this-band sort of way without quite committing to the proposed adventure. At the second chorus, however, Schneider’s invitation left nothing to choice as the band’s quiet strumming exploded into an urgent wave that opened the floors of the 9:30 Club and swallowed its contents whole. Lord Huron ushered the crowd into their romanticized journey like the Pied Piper, alluring us with anthems of adventure and the unknown.
The highlight of the night was the aptly titled “We Went Wild,” a somewhat reserved song off Lord Huron’s first EP in 2010 that has become a behemoth in 2014. The song soared in an extended instrumentation solo as Schneider ditched his guitar to bang a drum so hard that he lost his hat and a frenzied crowd clapped along. A similarly grand surprise was the titular “Lonesome Dreams” which featured a danceable electric guitar outro, and the new song “Fool For Love” with an upbeat 50’s country rock groove.
Crowd favorites “She Lit A Fire” and “Time To Run” served their purpose to ignite the audience, and quieter offerings like “Ghost On The Shore” and “Brothers” ebbed and flowed like the trickling water back tracking between songs. Lord Huron closed the evening with the song that first drew me to them, “The Stranger,” building the song’s typical harmonies with additional jingle bells and repeated warped refrains: “Now that I’ve seen your face/I’m haunted by the letters in your name.” A fake-out ending brought the show to a howling conclusion, with Schneider wailing into the crowd, which was yelling right back at him.
Ends Of The Earth
The Man Who Lives Forever
I Will Be Back One Day
We Went Wild
New Song — Fool For Love
The Ghost On The Shore
She Lit A Fire
New Song — Until The Night Turns
Time To Run
Kicking off the evening was Minneapolis band Night Moves…
…hazy rockers whose songs have 12-string guitar-propelled country roots, but grow into full-bodied alt-rock tunes with the assistance of lo-fi bass lines and the skewered, slightly psychedelic vocals of John Pelant. The band was the perfect setup for Lord Huron’s show, offering songs so familiar and yet simultaneously so inaccessible that they command the attention of the crowd, a classic rock meets 90’s alt-rock wonderment brought to fruition by the agility of Pelant’s vocals. One moment crooning over a ballad with the best of them (I’d written Rod Stewart down early on), the next growling with raspy intensity amid slashing guitars, Night Moves was like a friend you’d forgotten about, and Thursday night was a fantastic reunion.
This is the text exchange between my balcony-ridden friend and me, trying to pinpoint Night Moves’ familiarity:
CP: Bruce Springsteen + Washed Out?
JF: Springsteen in looks… Like War On Drugs… Which is like Dylan + Dead + Springsteen
CP: Like The War On Drugs but more interesting?
CP: Yup. That’s it.
JF: Definitely The Eagles. But in the best way possible. With some Thom Yorke.
Now, go listen to their LP Colored Emotions. But seriously.
More Lord Huron Photos: