After a whirlwind weekend spent in Birmingham for the inaugural Sloss Fest, arriving home at 3AM that Sunday night before, a last minute early evening interview at the Tabernacle with the boys of SUSTO, I headed for Variety Playhouse to see Lord Huron with Widowspeak; something my tired body was screaming at me not to do.
It wasn’t that I didn’t expect a great show, I did. In fact, I had just caught Lord Huron’s set at Sloss Fest, and well they were just as great as the other times I’ve seen them. For my time, I’m always down to catch this band if possible. But if we are talking about a choice, my money is going to Lord Huron in a great venue vs. a festival setting. There’s just something about a good sounding venue that is perfect, trapping in every little sound and nuance that you may not get on a bigger festival stage.
That was also part of the problem. Lord Huron only has two albums out, so it’s not like the set list is going to be significantly different. And after just seeing them, my tired mind and body was going to fight me tooth and nail to keep me from having the experience I should be having. Luckily, I got there in time to catch Widowspeak, and change the trajectory of the night.
Widowspeak was more of an unknown to me as I stepped into the Variety Playhouse to catch their opening set. They are a Brooklyn-based duo of Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas, that makes gorgeous pop music. I had never seen them live, nor really dove too deeply into their albums. I had been digging on a few of Widowspeak’s new tracks from their upcoming album All Yours out Sept. 4th via Captured Tracks. They were one of those bands that I always like what I heard, but for whatever reason hadn’t really taken the time to explore further.
Well that’s going to change after this performance. Widowspeak have a way about them, a way to totally put you into a deep trance and forget all the current problems that exist in life. This trance like state though could go one of two ways for a person as tired as I was. Luckily, everything was exactly right. It was easy to wake up, but chill out, and get totally lost with Widowspeak.
Widowspeak’s music is all at once, soft, ambient, and gorgeous. The small guitar riffs during the songs from Robert Earl Thomas have a bluesy, sometimes western rock vibe that gives the songs an edge and keeps the music from sounding like every other ambient band. And of course, Molly Hamilton’s vocals can both haunt you, while at the same time uplift the listener. They had the crowd grooving right along with them.
Widowspeak was the perfect opener to prepare me for Lord Huron. Suddenly it was easy to remember why I forced myself to get out that night and see live music. They have a new fan here, and plenty of new fans from the sold out crowd that night at Variety Playhouse. Nevermind a dedicated group of fans that came early and knew the words to almost every song.
Once Lord Huron came to the stage, the sold out crowd was locked and loaded, ready for a great show. So was I. LA’s Lord Huron was touring behind the excellent sophomore album, Strange Trails. This new album seems more ready made than their first for a live show, at least to get the crowds dancing along more, especially when you are talking about Lord Huron playing bigger festivals. Not to say that sonically, it’s all that much different, dancier, or really that much more energized than their first album, Lonesome Dreams. Their first album is still the money maker, even if Strange Trails has helped expand their national footprint with it’s slightly more radio friendly songs. But the crowd that gobbles up the tickets early to help sell out their shows, still are enamored with Lonesome Dreams. It’s the type of album I could probably take a deserted island with me, and be pretty pleased with my choice. One I could listen to over and over. And no doubt this Atlanta crowd agreed.
Luckily for everyone, much like the set at Sloss Fest in Birmingham, we got a good mix of both the new and old albums throughout. “The Ghost On The Shore” came out in the middle of the set list with some wonderful harmonica playing from frontman, Ben Schneider. The song is gorgeous and was a perfect piggy back on what Widowspeak started. From there the band went into “She Lit A Fire” that had the crowd singing along in unison. “End of the Earth” was another highlight from the set. Of course you can’t forget “Fool For Love” as one of the highlights from the new album, a song that got the sold out crowd dancing around.
After a quick break, the band came back out for the encore with one of the most gorgeous love songs from Strange Trails, in “The Night We Met”. Then the band went with “Time To Run” to end their set on a high and have the crowd dance their way out of Variety Playhouse.
Overall, you have to say Lord Huron played a perfect set at Variety. The band’s songs encourages singing along in unison, everyone there knows every word like it’s their own. There is something about being in a smallish venue like Variety, where the crowd gets sucked in and forgets they were their to catch up with their friends about last weekend, and instead gets in unison with a band performing their hearts out on stage. The small chatter is instead put on the back burner, and the singing grows louder. Lord Huron’s musicianship is really tight that creates a really big swarming sound, quieting the rest of the crowd too busy chatting, if you turn around you may miss some small amazing intricacy of the song. Lord Huron is stellar, and I shall be seeing this group the next time they come through town, no doubt.
Photos and Review By: Mike Gerry