I go to a lot of concerts. Both a curse and a blessing, I’ve realized in the four years I’ve been working for Ultra5280 that regardless of a bands musicality, live concerts can only really fit into one of four basic categories: 1) A show that’s just meh, 2) the band that sounds good, but is boring to watch perform live, 3) the band that I love unconditionally and will be happy to watch regardless of sound or performance (everyone has these, no judging me), and 4) the band who’s music is good, but their live performance truly hooks me as a diehard fan. Misterwives easily claimed their seat in category number four on Monday night, and did so by the end of their first song. A night showcasing many up and coming pop acts to be watched in 2015, Handsome Ghost, Børns, and Misterwives made for a great lineup as they stopped by The Bluebird Theatre this past Monday night.
Opening the night was Handsome Ghost, an ethereal, ambient duo based in Boston, Mass. Playing a quick 30minute set, fans got an early taste of the group’s new “Steps” EP which was being released the next day. Lead singer Tim Noyes blends tranquil-yet-upbeat piano grooves with airy, melodic harmonies one would expect from a Bon Iver record. A genre he personally describes as “Indie Prom”, I find this a fitting description for the band that seems poised to take Owl City’s place atop the synth-pop podium of the radio world. I was pleasantly surprised by this band’s resonance with me on a evening when I was only expecting upbeat, funk-laced pop. Certainly a group to watch, Handsome Ghost left me satisfied in ways I did not expect, anxious to hear a slightly more diverse repertoire as the band continues to grow.
Next to take the stage was newcomer Børns. With spring right around the corner and summer following in quick succession, it’s hard to not feel entranced by their effortlessly catchy songs overflowing with sun-kissed melodies and danceable bass lines. Singer/songwriter Garrett Borns’ charismatic electro-rock EP Candy was released last November, and the track “Electric Love” has been steadily making it’s way onto radio stations across the US over the course of the last month. Although the record is filled with unique instrumentation, I was most curious to hear Borns’ vocal range on Monday night. While his vocals were pitch perfect, I found myself disappointed to hear the singer choose to not hit the high note that carries the chorus of “Electric Love”. An understandably difficult request for any vocalist, I’m hoping to hear the song in it’s full glory at SXSW next week. With a talented four piece band accompanying the singer on stage complete with a badass (sorry) female drummer and another vocalist producing perfectly matched harmonies, Børns had the audience moving and grooving without much solicitation.
Capping off the night was Misterwives, who’s radio single “Reflections” has been burning up KTCL 93.3’s rotation for months now. As the stage went dark and the band took their places, lead singer Mandy Lee led her band of brothers in a series of hand gestures, ending in a “salute” to the audience before diving into their new album’s title track “Our Own House”. Lee took control of the stage immediately, leading fans in hand-claps before the band broke into the song’s chorus. Dancing, spinning, jumping and oozing with passion, Lee’s stage presence feels more fitting of a big band bandleader from the 1950’s than a vocalist of any modern day group, keeping both the audience and the band easily in sync. As the group finished the track’s last punchy notes, the crowd could not stop cheering: errupting in a standing ovation (if you will) by the end of track one, only for drummer Etienne to take the mic and inform the audience that Ms. Lee has been in bed sick for the past two days…WHAT?! It was unbelievable to me that she could be sick after watching this frontwoman move on stage, yet as I watched more closely through the rest of the night, there it was: her timid coughing in between tracks, and the occasional squirting of honey straight from the bottle down her throat to coat her inflamed vocal chords. We were five minutes into this show and I already felt as if I could not be more impressed with group, but there I was, shocked and amazed, watching Lee continue to lead her band in a choreographed stomp-clap routine before jumping into “Box Around The Sun” despite her illness.
The show continued much like this, each track keeping me head-bobbing, toe-tapping and smiling ear to ear. When listening to their debut album, I was immediately impressed with the band’s seamless blend of indie pop and funk-influenced instrumentation, but what intrigued me the most was lead singer Lee’s diverse, powerful range. Often times voices like hers can be hard to control live, but Monday night she sang like she was born to do nothing else. I did not hear one single sour note escape Ms. Lee’s mouth from the evening’s beginning to end, only continuing to prove her vocal skill with songs like the jazzy “Oceans” and the addictively anthemic “No Need For Dreaming”. If this girl has a voice like that on a night when she’s sick, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like during a show when she’s at 100%. Multi-instrumentalist Jesse Blum was another highlight of the show, playing a trumpet with one hand while playing keys with the other, even picking up an accordion and glockenspiel for different tracks. The fun the band was having emanated from the stage out into the crowd, keeping fans moving all night long right alongside them.
As the band began their radio hit “Reflections” at the end of the night, you could barely hear the instruments above the crowd’s momentous sing-along; every part of the room was exploding with energy. As if they had not expressed it enough throughout the night, band’s genuine appreciation for the crowd was displayed by the awestruck looks on each member’s faces as they ended the song to an uproar of applause. Bassist Will Hehir looked beside himself as he and the rest of the band took in the crowd’s raucous approval for a few moments before ending their set with the song “Queens”.
It takes a lot to get me excited about a new band these days, but Misterwives has checked every box on my list, if not more. We’re expecting to see the group again this next week at SXSW (pending Lee’s health concerns - get well soon!), but regardless of when my next chance comes, you can bet that I woldn’t miss it for the world. Honest and uplifting lyrics mixed with impressive performance skills and even more impressive musicality, I both admire and appreciate Misterwives’ determination to set the new standard for pop acts.