all words and photos: Julian Vu
Last Friday, I had the chance to shoot New Kids on the Block & Backstreet Boys (why? I don’t really know). I was in an arena with 20,000 screaming girls swooning over 8 guys. This past Tuesday, I was at the 9:30 with 1 screaming girl, but still a significant amount of girls swooning over one guy: Sondre Lerche. It was pretty much the same experience on my part; tons of girls, tons of said girls’ boyfriends, and tons of music I hated to admit that I like.
Except, I’m not afraid to admit that I like Sondre’s music. He clearly has a preternatural understanding of how to craft pop songs that utilize unique jazz structures. Sure his music has reached some level of mainstream success (his music, not his name). I’m not just talking the Dan in Real Life soundtrack, the man’s music has been played in retail outlets, tv, movies, and even grocery stores last I recall. Sondre’s proliferation has not at all hindered his ability to write excellent tunes, and consistently remain one of the nicest dudes in show business.
Quite the (married) ladies man, Mr. Sondre certainly had his legion of fans, many of which were surprisingly (though not so surprisingly) young. I kept hearing utterances and sweet nothings to the likes of , “OH MY GAWD HE IS SO HOT” and “HEYYYYYYY SONDRE!!!!” Initially to the show’s detriment, the presence of young ladies who knew every word of Sondre’s music paid off when Sondre performed “Modern Nature” as part of an encore. The room was still, quiet, and hanging on every one of Sondre’s words. The most enthusiastic of fans were trying to sing along without being pinned as the obnoxious fan. It then became apparent that everyone was an obnoxious fan, and all the girls gave in, and sang the most beautiful counterpoint ever put on by an audience. I wanted to hate it so hard, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t gorgeous. Sondre himself even scoffed and retorted that having such a beautiful chorus was throwing him off. Seeing through his apparent irony, the crowd chuckled, only to return to the angelic singalong.
So let’s take the girls out of the equation. Sondre seemed to get no thrill from the girls, rather from the audience as a whole. Interesting that his album released the same day, he made that an afterthought, and instead focused on how grateful he was for his fans, and his band (which opened the show with their respective musical projects). All night, Sondre worked his way through material new and old. There were tender moments, counterplayed by the bompin disco-infused “Phantom Punch” which more than got the room moving.
The set ended all too soon, and did not seem at all like it was an hour and a half. Sondre promised an artsy breakdown, which he delivered on, and really unleashed his inner hard bop side of things. Like the rest of his music, even his freakout moments were highly accessible and enjoyed by everyone.
Openers Nightlands and Kishi Bishi all relied on well-developed beautiful sounds via looped guitar, violin, and epic yet still somehow ambient sounds. If ever a theme for the night, it was the modesty card in which the crowd was overthanked for their patience and support. Kishi Bishi utilized looped violin via a DL-4 much in the same vein as Andrew Bird or Owen Pallett. Kishi Bishi is a very technically talented musician whose admitted detriment hinges upon his excessive banter that was less endearing than I’m sure he hoped it to be. Regardless the man can shred on the violin, piano, and whatever other instruments he had in his arsenal.
Nightlands created driving yet beautiful music that normally would have bothered me due to the absence of a bass, but their sound was admittedly perfect even still. “Arms Race” brought the crowd to a standstill, and the very Fleetwood-esque cover of a Lindsay Buckingham tune certainly got good vibes flowing throughout the crowd. Utilizing block harmonies, arppegiated guitar strcuture, and resonant/reverberous drumming, it’s easy to draw comparisons to Fleet Foxes, but that would be this reviewer’s easy way out. Strattling the line between folk and ambient, Nightlands create beautiful music that may not be accessible to everyone [re: the younger ones in the audience], but is certainly a great foray into Sondre’s set.