As far as bands touring together, Mothers and Big Thief couldn’t be a more perfect match and on Wednesday, March 22nd the bands brought their US tour to The EARL in East Atlanta Village.
The two bands share plenty of common ground. Both released their debut albums in 2016 to much buzz. Both are bands are built around the songs of their emotional front women, Adrianne Lenker (Big Thief) and Kristine Leschper (Mothers) respectively. Both play a brand of experimental folk that can cut straight through a person’s psyche. While the two bands are from different areas, Big Thief from Brooklyn, and Mothers from Athens, GA, the bands seem to share a commonality that created the perfect pairing for any live music lover looking for tunes that can move you both lyrically and and through the arrangements.
Big Thief came out first. The Brooklyn band released their debut, Masterpiece, via Saddle Creek Records in 2016. Just this morning, the band premiered a new song, “Mythological Beauty”, from their upcoming sophomore album Capacity, due out on June 9th. On that night at The EARL, the band played a set heavy from their debut, Masterpiece, including the incredible single the album is appropriately named after. The crowd packed in tight around The EARL stage to take in every nuance of Big Thief’s set.
Occasionally between songs, Adrianne Lenker, would speak out and thank the crowd for coming out. Her soft spoken nervous twitch, and overall sweet demeanor made her that much more compelling to the audience. You can quickly tell that these songs come from deep within this thoughtful person who is really dissecting the world around her. There’s no filler here, this is real music, and real emotions – sadness and joy.
The band takes these songs to the next level, combining elements of swirling psych rock, emo, alt-country, and more, providing songs that rock loudly, but with the emotional pull from Adrianne’s lyrics that make these songs so real, and absolutely stellar. There’s no doubt the audience agreed that Big Thief is one of the best new bands around.
Athens-based Mothers came up next for a quasi- hometown show. The similarities between the two bands are long, and you could repeat a lot of what I’ve said about Big Thief and insert Mothers. And those similarities don’t end there. Both bands songs are built around the lyrics of their strong front women, sure they recorded their debut albums as a “band”, but those debuts were led by their lyricists. Over the last year though, touring around and around the country, both have grown further into actual full blown tight knit “bands”, and less of an artist with a backing band. As both Mothers and Big Thief work toward their sophomore releases, you can see how tight these artists have grown together on stage, becoming more of a group with equal parts and input. Instead of just building the songs around the songwriter, as they start to release new material you will realize new songs are being built together. Heck, last year at Mothers LP release show at The EARL last March, the band had already grown from the album, with new intricacies added to the songs.
And that’s where things became a little less similar between the two bands. While Big Thief played a set heavy from their debut, Mothers has reached the point where they’ve moved beyond their debut album. Their set at The EARL on this night, consisted of primarily new material. Mothers is going heavy on road testing new songs, and while this may have been somewhat disappointing to audience members looking to hear songs from their debut When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, Mothers still left the audience in pieces on the dirty floor of The EARL. The songs that Kristine Leschper originally penned is what made Mothers so compelling initially, but every time I’ve seen the band live over the last year, it’s how they had taken those songs grew them into these rock ‘n’ roll operas, bigger and badder than ever, each time. This is rock ‘n’ roll at it’s finest, but with real depth behind the songs that make this one of the best bands around. The band continues to experiment with break neck speeds, changing the pace of the tracks within each song, and the band really seemed to be growing further on the experimental side of their music with the new songs. While we still got a few of the now “classics”, including “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t”, it was good to watch the band continue to grow before our very eyes.
The one big thing I could take from this set full of new material, while the band continues to further as a group, the emotional depth of Kristine’s songs aren’t going anywhere. After the band finished their set, and the audience cheered on for more, Kristine came back on stage for one last song, just her and her guitar. During that last song, you could hear a pin drop, as she sang from the bottom of her heart, barely able to keep it together to finish the song itself. It was one of those moments as an audience member that you can’t help but be wrapped into what was going down on that stage. Tears were barely able to be kept in as Kristine finished the song, and jetted off of the stage to fully let her emotions out backstage.
Big Thief and Mothers both played stunning sets at The EARL that night, keeping experimental rock ‘n’ roll alive with a depth that you will never hear on today’s radio, but that’s okay, because “real” music isn’t going anywhere. And these two bands made that clear at The EARL.
Check out Mike Gerry‘s photos from the show: