Sleigh Bells are one of those bands that tread the fine line between brilliance and hype. Their Treats album exploded over a year ago in May 2010, and Sleigh Bells emerged as the undisputed leader at the forefront of the noise-pop music scene. They have been riding the waves of their success—brought to them largely by the blog-favorite (and radio-friendly) tracks “Crown on the Ground” and “Tell ‘Em”—since then, touring endlessly and selling out bigger and bigger venues with each return visit.
Middle Brother are not new, innovative, or groundbreaking. But then again, that’s not the point. That is not the point of any band in the Americana/indie folk genre, really, and this fact is sometimes poorly misunderstood by music critics who want artists to do something “interesting,” but I digress.
Justin Townes Earle‘s Valentines Day show at First Avenue was not sold out. It was not outrageously hot, or too packed to move. The crowd was pleasant and comfortable. But it shouldn’t have been so calm, really, when you take into account the caliber of the performance that Earle put forth.
The energy at Cloud Cult‘s Wednesday night show at First Avenue (first of two they’ve nearly sold out, with openers Fort Wilson Riot) was a lot like a welcome home party—a joyous night that had more of a family vibe than a rock show vibe. For what it’s worth, Cloud Cult have earned the right to celebrate a little.
For die-hard Dandy Warhols fans, Thursday night’s show at the Fine Line was absolutely perfect. It was one of those beautiful occasions where the band knew exactly who they were playing to, the audience knew exactly what they were going to get, and all parties got to have a rollicking good time.
I arrived at First Avenue just in time to catch the end of sound check for Mumford & Sons before their Friday night gig. The four Brits were spaced out on stage, running through the set list. They started in on “Roll Away Your Stone,” and I watched them carefully, knowing that with fewer than 20 other people on the floor, this was as intimately close as one could possibly get to the immensely popular rockers before they would inevitably shake down the venue that evening. (Read Jay Gabler’s review of the show, with Meredith Westin’s photos, here.) And even when they were playing to no one, the boys sounded off with all the heart and soul that their Sigh No More album insists upon.
The Dandy Warhols have been rocking their psychedelic-revival electronic pop sound on the indie scene since the early 1990s. Their tenth album, The Capitol Years 1995-2007, is something of a greatest hits album, offering both original tracks and alternate mixes of some of their most well-known and highest-charting songs, plus one previously unreleased song, “This Is the Tide.”
“I am experimenting with the sweater vest,” announced David Sedaris after he thanked the audience at the State Theatre for coming on Thursday night. Indeed, he was wearing one, and he quickly set the mood for the evening as the audience rippled with laughter. (For the record, he looked very much like an interesting and dynamic author, not like Mr. Rogers.)
One thing’s for sure: Ra Ra Riot certainly know how to put on a show. Their show at the Varsity Theater on Thursday night showcased the standard pop energy that gave the Syracuse, New York band its name. Adding to the energy of the night were the two openers, the atmospheric We Barbarians from Long Beach, California and Chikita Violenta—a surprising and wonderful indie rock band from Mexico City.
You could tell that this has been a rough year for Rufus Wainwright as he sat down at his grand piano at Orchestra Hall on Wednesday night and played a set of dynamic songs that had the complexity and depth of a tragic opera.