HOSPITALITY @ HI-DIVE | 10/05/12
Hospitality's set made you think of a time when rock bands weren't trying to mine classic rock territory or go for a specific genre, especially at the end of the show when the foursome performed "All Day Today" from its self-titled, debut full-length. Along with the edgy, chime-y guitar work and punchy bass lines accented by percussion that gently guided each song along, there was a jazzy undertone, a sensibility, perhaps, that informed the songwriting. But it was that unifying sense of sound that made the band tight with an easy dynamic between everyone in the band.
When Hospitality started its set, the song was reminiscent, at least in the rhythm section, of what you might hear in Joe Jackson's band circa Look Sharp!. Amber Papini had a clear and resonant voice that you could compare to that of Heather Nova. David Christian employed a fairly wide range of sound ideas across the band's songs and seemed to easily transition between the more poppy material as well as sections of songs that went off the established melody.
The band took some chances with new material mid-set, which is where any smart band puts the songs its not entirely on solid footing with playing or that it likes but which aren't exactly yet the band's hits with fans. Nevertheless, even when Papini made it obvious that the song was new with a laugh acknowledging the parts in the middle of the song where everything seemed to come apart, it just made the show more interesting. If you want to hear something just like the recording, well, you can listen to the recording. But getting to see a band taking some risks is definitely appealing to anyone that's seen more than a few dozen shows. The new song, "Goin' Out," sure seemed like a confident performance.
The only awkward part of the show, which the band tried to handle with humor and grace, came during the performance of the hushed, warm and gorgeous "Julie." Christian told us, "This is a quiet one." But you could hear a lot of loud chatter in the room. But instead of dropping even more of a hint, Hospitality played the song and still some people did not seem to get it that they were being louder than the band. Fortunately word got around or these people had that realization that they were the ones clamoring the loudest before the song was over.
Opening the show was Denver's the Juniper Trees. Fronted by Jenna Herbst, who some may know as the lead singer in the excellent, dusky, folky, slowcore-esque band Sarina Simoom, this quartet was definitely a departure from what you might expect. Rather than dark, the music was pop but with a grounding in old timey music without fully drifting into the territory we've seen a lot in Denver. Herbst's vocals displayed a versatility of tone that not every singer possesses and the harmonies between her and Brian Esau matched perfectly with the music each played.
Teeny Lieberson told us this was TEEN's first time in Denver, and little did the band know that some people actually showed up mainly to see it. The mixture and employment of sounds was definitely not really in line with what much of anyone is doing these days but this definitely worked in the band's favor. From jump, the songs were reminiscent of later Rainer Maria if that band had dipped further into dream pop territory.
Lizzie Lieberson's keyboard work seemed to be able to be crisp when it needed to be but mostly it took on this beautiful amorphous character that was hazy and blurry and indistinct like billowing clouds in the early morning before the sun is high enough in the sky to burn them away.
The vocal harmonies between everyone in the band were strong and soulful. The bass tone was rich with the treble taken out just enough to take the edge off but not enough for it to lose a distinct character. Jane Herships also had a real gift for making melodic bass parts that allowed the rest of the music stand out more while being compelling in their own right.
The songwriting style could be compared to a mixture of old Phil Specter girl groups and Luscious Jackson because of the soul and old R&B element to some of the songs and to Teeny's vocals in particular. But mostly this band sounded like it was drawing some of the same inspirations as the late, great Electrelane. Like there was a bit of Raincoats, Liliput, dream pop and kraut rock inside the DNA of its songwriting.
A lot of this had to do with the band's completely un-flashy but incredibly solid and inventive drummer, Katherine Lieberson. Her use of not just polyrhythms by virtue of hitting an offhand beat while striking a finely syncopated rhythm with the kick drum gave the music more depth than was immediately obvious unless you paid close attention.
Much will probably be made of Sonic Boom's involvement with this band's recorded output to date but the live band surpassed the excellent recorded album in terms of visceral impact and clear chemistry with one another where it counts most--in writing the songs and performing them on stage in real time.
Personal Bias: Liked the video for "Electricity" (which Sonic Boom was involved in making) and enjoyed Kristina Lieberson's work in Here We Go Magic.
Random Detail:Ran into sound man extraordinaire Xandy Whitesel outside the show during one of his breaks from being the sound guy for Bon Iver.
By the Way: In Limbo by TEEN is one of the better releases of 2012. Sonic Boom also mixed and produced that album.