The Hush Sound with River City Extension and Hockey - Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale, May 22
Across the vast spectrum of the music world, there are certain artists that don't necessarily change the game, but strive to do a specific something as well as humanly possible.
As professional music dorks, we are often tasked with seeking out the artists that consistently progress their art, or question boundaries, or those with some sort of quantifiable impact on a genre. However, we'd be nothing if we couldn't admit that sometimes a cheeseburger should just be a fucking cheeseburger. And by the same sentiment, we hope Bob Seger never makes a synth-pop record -- not because it would necessarily be the worst album ever -- but because we know damn well a burger suffocating beneath a puddle of Heinz 57 beaten mercilessly from the depths of a glass bottle is more satisfying than some Wagyu and foie gras abomination.
Of all of the incorrigible trash Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz championed in the mid-aughts, the Hush Sound was unique in that it was just a band writing solid pop songs without any excessive schtick. The string of smartly arranged indie-pop albums the band released on Wentz's Fueled by Ramen imprint earned it a dedicated following, however, the Hush Sound took an extended hiatus in 2009 to focus on other projects. The band has recently returned to active status, releasing a duo of fresh songs and hitting the road to shake the dust off before the release of its first album of new material in over five years. Last night, the Hush Sound returned to South Florida and reminded everyone in attendance just how enjoyable indie from the saccharine-sect can be when done with a bit of passion.
We arrived at the Culture Room just in time to catch River City Extension's set. The Jersey based alt-country group has been making a fair amount of noise in the blogosphere since the release of its most recent full length, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger, in 2012, and the young band did not disappoint live. With a shake of a tambourine and a volley of the tom drums, the band took off on an exuberant journey through some choice tracks pulled from the aforementioned album. Frontman, John Michelini, spilt his heart out over the band's huge arrangements, which were rounded out by the sigh of a fiddle and some tasty, organically flavored keyboards. By the end of the performance, River City Extension had easily won the hearts of those in the crowd that had maybe not heard of them prior to the gig with its display of Saddle Creek informed alt-country.
Following River City Extension's energetic romp, Hockey, hit the stage. Though Hockey has enjoyed a major amount of web hype, we were far less impressed with its live performance. The group's wispy, '80s soul meets synth-pop vibes simply did not translate well live, and the promise of a heated dance party was dashed by perpetual mix problems that plagued the band's set. The synths refused to meld with the guitars, the drum pad that called the electronic snare into play wasn't plugged in for the first few songs, and the frustration of it all visually seeped onto the faces of the musicians at times. There is a lesson here for bands that use electronic elements live: Teach a friend to function as a soundman or shell out for a pro because the club's sound tech is probably not going to do your hybrid setup any justice, and as we saw last night, it can be the difference between a fun set and a less favorable review. And, we'd like to think a band with almost 100k "likes" on Facebook should have it's live act together by now, no?
The Hush Sound's Greta Salpeter approached her keyboard to a roar of applause from excited fans. The singer twinkled the keys and belted a few powerful bars to the delight of the audience. Soon, the rest of her mates assumed their places and the audience was immediately caught in the sway of the band's bouncy jaunts. Salpeter's clear and soulful vocals carried much of the set, though guitarist/singer Bob Morris' playful demeanor with audience members and dancing on the ledge of the stage surely helped up the fun vibes.
The Hush Sound's new tracks fit in nicely to the set: "Scavengers" made an early appearance, and we were pleasantly surprised by the energetic sounding new song -- which smacked a bit of Blondie's more rock oriented material. The audience bopped along with the number, and as we peered out upon a small sea of smiling faces, we could not help but think just how perfectly the song would fit in a Target ad.
Though the Hush Sound's musical performance was tight, the interaction the band had with its audience was a major highlight of the show. Morris instigated a chant for the Heat after making the poor decision to throw his hat in publicly for the Pacers in such close proximity to Miami Wade County, and the band brought up audience members for a dance competition in during new tune, "Not a Stranger." The winner of the dance competition -- determined by applause -- was an excited looking young man who happened to be missing one of his legs; he left with a tote bag filled to the brim with merch, and the moment was a lovely one to be sure. The set was a fun reintroduction to a band that really was of a higher caliber than much of its graduating class, and a reminder that indie-pop does not have to be deplorable or cloying. You know, like that band Fun.? The Format was terrible as well, so don't even bother.
Personal Bias: Who isn't down with a little bit of catchy pop?
Random Observation: Non-smoking shows feel like being in another state. Who do we have to contact to make it a law?