all words: Sepie Moinipanah
all photos: Mike Danko
On behalf of Danko and myself, we would like to extend a very special thanks to the loyal fans who briefly forfeited their primo spots among the crowd to shoot for the Morning Benders set.
Monday night openers, the Morning Benders took the stage promptly at quarter past eight, as advertised. The young and well-groomed bucks approached the audience and picked up their gear to a warm welcome by the Washingtonian crowd. Having only heard of the Berkeley natives a few months a go, and never having seen them live, I did not know what to expect.
The Benders’ second LP, Big Echo, graced by the producing skills of Grizzly Bear’s bassist Chris Taylor, has been subject to recent (well deserved) hype. Front man, Chris Chu, oooooohed and aaaaaaahed the fans and, with the help of his band mates (and even the crowd during the “Excuses” sing along), rocked through their short set.
The band’s delightful performance left the crowd (myself included) wanting much more. And as luck would have it, DC will get a chance to see them again soon enough…the Bay-area boys are making their DAR Constitution Hall debut as the openers for the Black Keys on July 26th.
With only one album under their belts, the Danger Mouse/James Mercer super-group that is Broken Bells, wrapped up a 13 song set (seen below) efficiently and effectively. The duo, now a seven-piece live production, got things started with “October” and worked in a few (sort of) covers including “Insane Lullaby”, “Crimson Clover” and my favorite of the three “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” throughout the evening.
Mercer and company turned up the heat towards the end of their main set with “The High Road” and “Vaporize” double-header. A bit disappointing to some but to be expected as “The High Road” seemed to be the band’s go-to and a logical choice to wrap-up a set.
Disappearing for a quick “beer me” moment, the gents made their way back out and finished off the night with the remaining two tracks off their self-titled record including a Smokey cover. Ending with “The Mall and Misery” was a fantastic touch. The most dance-able track on the album by far, the band extended this party favorite with an elongated Burton and Mercer-less, effects-driven, jam session.
It should be noted though that while Broken Bells put on a solid show they lacked a charismatic stage presence. The set included a handful of stand-out tracks while the remaining set was just good, nothing more nothing less.
I assume audience members may have expected more dramatic on-stage antics prevalent in Burton’s other side-project, Gnarls Barkley. This absence certainly did not take away from the band’s connection with the audience, as both Mercer and Burton graciously signed an eager fan’s record before bidding DC farewell. Perhaps a more lively set next time around will bump this up from a solid show to an awesome one — a job well-done nonetheless.
Broken Bells Set List (compliments of Mike Danko):
- “Your Head Is on Fire”
- “The Ghost Inside”
- “Sailing to Nowhere”
- “Crimson & Clover” (Tommy James and the Shondells cover)
- “Trap Doors”
- “The High Road”
- “Insane Lullaby” (Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse cover)
- “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles cover)
- “Mongrel Heart”
- “The Mall and Misery”