All words: Courtney Pitman and Erin Holmes
The “She Said / She Said” reviewing Dream Team is composed of concert friends Erin & Courtney. These two serendipitously met en route to a Local Natives show in fall 2010 and have since traveled to many a show together, developing a deeply-rooted love for DC’s music venues.
Here they’ll attempt to translate their typical, PBR-fueled post-show banter onto paper to share with you and the interwebs. It’s like Mike and Mike in the morning, except they chat about live music. At night.
CP: So we walked into Rock and Roll Hotel at the beginning of Brooklyn-based Lucius’ set with zero expectations. Almost immediately, we were greeted with a percussive assault emanating from the stage, tempered by strong female duo vocals.
EH: Honestly, this marked the third time I would be seeing Milo Greene in one year so I predicted that the evening would be fairly… predictable. Lucius changed that for me the instant we walked in and were blasted by their powerful sound. The dynamic female duo’s harmonies, the drums, the guitar, the wood-block-thing and maraca… It all worked for me. Discovering them turned out to be the highlight of my night. THOSE LADIES ARE SO TALENTED.
CP: I FEEL THAT I SHOULD AGREE IN ALL CAPS. Like Milo Greene, Lucius’ name suggests the act might be a male singer-songwriter, and doesn’t at all reflect the sound within. Quite the contrary, in their matching red dresses (although they looked strangley dark green in the RnR lighting…), there is no question that the ladies of Lucius, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, are running the show. The three guys, also matching in black shirts and bowties, comprise a wonderful supporting cast.
EH: They looked tight. I found an interview where they said they are just getting into character like an actor, trying to put themselves into the fantasy world of their songs… I just love them. Thank you, Milo Greene, for introducing me to Lucius. I’m keeping my ear out for them, since all they have right now is a four-song self-titled EP that doesn’t even come close to what they are doing live.
CP: Their live performance definitely outmatched the recorded songs, but that might be attributed to their maturity and stage presence. The easy highlight from the evening was the last song of the set, a stripped down cover of Buddy Holly’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” Jess and Holly descended into the crowd to form a “love circle,” and backed only by an unplugged guitar, belted out the cover encircled by an impressively silent (likely awestruck) crowd.
EH: So, onto Milo. Like I said, this was my third time experiencing their live show… The first was when my NPR-All-Songs-intern roommate Clare told me I had to see this band called Milo Greene. She helped organize NPR Intern Edition’s first “deskless concert” a la tiny desk concerts, and had the idea to get a then-unknown California band she loved to partake when they came into town to open for The Civil Wars at Lincoln Theatre. I got to join her for their show at Lincoln Theatre and felt like I was let in on a greatgreat secret. They finally generated a complete, self-titled LP this year, around the same time they returned to DC as headliners at DC9.
CP: And you were kind enough to invite me to the DC9 show and share the greatgreat secret with me. Though they are less of a secret these days, their name is still quite enigmatic for the uninitiated. Milo Greene is not a singer-songwriter, nor a solo artist with a backing touring band. Milo Greene is five insanely talented musicians, four of whom are the front(wo)man during any given song. In their first four songs (with words), each had a different lead singer.
Even still, the others don’t exactly fade to the back or become reduced to background harmonies when not performing their song. Instead they offer depth to the arrangements, surprising you with a mini solo, or contributing to a call / response section. While the vocal duties shift throughout the set, so too do the instruments and their stage positioning. It’s like musical chairs with musical instruments. Or something.
EH: But the songs still play out in a similar fashion. There’s continuity, a theme. Bandmember Andrew mentioned this in his BYT interview: “We’ve always seen this record as a whole piece; you know, we live in a world where people play one song here and one song there from different artists in a mix, and that’s awesome, but we wanted to push ourselves to make something that you could sit down and listen to from beginning to end, and it had a journey and it was compelling and interesting.”
Their show is crafted similarly in that they take us on a journey from start to finish with careful instrumentals leading in and out of their songs. They seemed more serious and polished this time around at RnR than the others; this is a band.
CP: I thought they seemed more confident and energetic since I saw them at DC9. Their lush, epic instrumental intros (“Wooden Antlers;” “Polaroid”) in their live show were some of the most captivating pieces. My gripe is that after building those intros sometimes they dive into… what sounds like the album version of their song. For me this is most obvious on “Perfectly Aligned.” After I listened to the album the first time (on your recommendation), I distinctly remember telling you excitedly, “This song might change my life.” But for the second time in a row it didn’t translate for me live. Their effortlessly crafted vocal and instrumental layers on the recorded version of “Perfectly Aligned” culminate in grand fashion, but it felt hollow and almost insignificant in the live set.
EH: “Perfectly Aligned” was actually a highlight for me– though Marlana admitted that she accidentally played her keyboard on organ mode for the song– it really filled up RnR nicely, while there were so many other songs that I just wanted them to sing so much louder. Maybe that was partly due to Lucius who fucking sang their guts out on every song… the Milo kids seemed a little weak compared to that. But their instrumentals and the general flow of the evening sounded great. Plus, a Wilco cover of “A Shot in the Arm!” Didn’t see that one coming.
CP: I have to disagree with your use of the word weak, and offer a particular shoutout to Robbie Arnett, whose performances seemed to be the most captivating. My highlights were the “Wooden Antlers” instrumental intro followed by “Don’t You Give Up On Me,” the only song that completely lived up to its build-up and effectively set the tone for the evening. The Sufjan cover of “Chicago” was good last time and even better this time, and the closer, “1957” was still strong and elicited the most enthusiasm from the crowd. The surprise for me was “Son My Son,” which has become a real grower. I don’t think I liked it much that first time I listened to the album.
EH: I agree with “Son My Son”– it seems to get better every show. Really, their whole album is a twee-riffic autumn soundtrack. There’s even a song called “Autumn Tree,” so yeah. Check it out.
Don’t You Give Up On Me
What’s The Matter
Son My Son
Chicago (Sufjan Stevens cover)
Take A Step
A Shot In The Arm (Wilco cover)