On Friday, June 16th, Aldous Harding came all the way from her home in New Zealand to The EARL in Atlanta to show off her stunning new album, Party, in an intimate live setting.
Before Aldous took to the stage, Atlanta’s own Jock Gang warmed up the crowd with an intense set full of twists and turns. Jock Gang seems poised to be the next buzzworthy underground band to come out of Atlanta, joining the recent buzz for Atlanta bands such as Warehouse, Omni, Art School Jocks, DiCaprio and more. One thing you can say about the Atlanta artists like these, they like to experiment and don’t settle for the norm or sounding like every other indie band today, and Jock Gang may just be a leader of the pack. The band ‘s only release so far is 2016’s EP, yet Jock Gang has already been given the seal of approval by the one and only Bradford Cox of Deerhunter, whom brought Jock Gang along with them on a big tour earlier this year.
On stage the band members of Jock Gang don’t do much, there’s isn’t a lot of movement or banter, it’s just about the music and feeling every chord and riff as they play to their audience. The complexity of their music isn’t going to be for everyone, there isn’t much in the way of traditional harmonies or melodies and the rhythm can change without even a hint that they about to mix it up. But that’s what makes Jock Gang so great and compelling, they are not only trying to challenge the listener, but challenge themselves as musicians along the way. The art rock band brings a dry, strenuous energy to their set that exudes power on a mechanical level, drawing audiences in with an intensity that doesn’t require flashy showmanship. Listening to Jock Gang live somehow becomes just you and the band, and if you are able to get out of your trance and look around, you’ll notice the rest of the audience is right there with you.
With Aldous Harding up next to close out the evening, Harding brought a stark contrast to the music that Jock Gang was performing on stage. The gothic folk singer out of New Zealand only brought her guitar, her stunning vocals, and Invisible Familiars’ Jared Samuel on the keyboard. While Jock Gang was rock ‘n’ roll, Aldous brought the back room of The EARL, a small, very dark rock club where the PBR flows like water, to a complete quiet. Out of all the many many shows I’ve seen at The EARL over the years, I don’t think it’s ever been quieter, and the audience has never been so attentive for a show that quiet.
Yet despite that difference between the bands on this bill, it was no stretch for fans of both to love the different styles they were hearing on stage. Like Jock Gang, Aldous Harding brings a fiery intensity to her music that you wouldn’t expect out of a folk singer with a guitar. When she sings, she seems to feel every note on a molecular level that’s hard to fathom. Just watching Aldous perform is entertaining to watch outside of the music itself, as her facial expressions throughout become a highlight where the audience is trying to figure out exactly where she is; is she right there with you, or is she really in a completely different place. The looks she gives, the stares, become something you want to figure out. At times it’s as if she is literally choosing an audience member and staring right into their soul, but at the same time, it seems like the person she is looking straight at isn’t even a real object she sees. On the surface seeing a dark, sparse folk duo in a darkly lit room on a Friday evening may sound boring, but this show was anything but. No one in the audience was ready to end this evening when Aldous finally played her last song.
Having just released her sophomore album, Party via 4AD, Aldous Harding continued the momentum she earned with her critically acclaimed self titled debut, released in 2015. The new album has set up Harding to take the next step as she becomes a global sensation, and this US tour behind the album is creating further buzz as she wins over audiences date by date. Live at The EARL, Aldous Harding was absolutely one of the most mesmerizing performers I’ve seen in a while. Her vocal range is stunning and perfect, as she can at one point hit the softest of notes in a room where a pin could drop and you could hear it, and the next she can take her notes high up and fill the room with just the vocals, holding the notes for a long range of time. Singles off the new album, “Imagining My Man” and “Horizon”, were definite highlights alongside my personal favorite, the title track from the new album. It’s hard not to love Aldous Harding and her quirky sense of humor she showed off between songs, but it’s her stunningly dark, yet sweet and lovely songs that make her one of the most compelling young singer songwriters around.
Check out photos and videos from the show by Mike Gerry below: