Though it was immediately obvious that there was no lack of talent on the bill at the Hi-Ho Lounge on April 10, how was anyone really to know that a Sunday night concert in Bywater following an extended weekend of French Quarter Fest revelry could have been this good?
Local newcomers the Beams seem to be getting exponentially tighter and more energetic with every performance while New Orleans rock veterans Big Blue Marble – primed for a formal launch of their latest record, The Big Blue Marble – is in the middle of a triumphant reemergence in the scene. North Carolina’s The Love Language had been on their way to Coachella and an opening slot Arcade Fire in Santa Fe, using every performance as an exercise in testing the newly-formed touring band’s live boundaries.
Nevertheless, in this day and age – and after this particular weekend of wall-to-wall musical performances scattered throughout New Orleans’ downtown area – it is always hard to predict what kind of crowd will show up on any given night. Thankfully, when the Beams took the stage the Hi-Ho was already beginning to take in a respectable group of friends and interested parties, and Big Blue Marble received mountainous applause from the growing crowd, a mix of die hard fans and curious passersby.
As soon as Big Blue Marble completed an astounding set that spanned all three of their studio albums, the Love Language promptly began carrying equipment out of the back and setting up on the floor in front of the stage. While the move was not unprecedented, it was certainly unexpected considering the singer-songwriter vibe for which I prepared myself. It was also perfect for what turned out to be a raucous, sweat-soaked barroom scream-along, the dense audience in front of the band joined by thirty-or-so impromptu dancers who found their way to the underutilized stage and stayed there for the remainder of the show.
With singer Stuart McLamb splitting audience face time between the two solidly-defined crowds, keyboardist Missy Thangs frequently left her post to frantically dance on the bar with tambourine in hand, creating a spectacle that left concertgoers thoroughly jaw-dropped between songs. After an equally spontaneous encore that involved a micless McLamb – joined by his brother Jordan on a pared-down percussion setup – screaming at the top of his lungs, nearly everyone in attendance needed to step outside for a breather, where “Holy shit” became the most commonly-spoken phrase of the evening.
I’ve heard at least a dozen people heap praise upon this band in the few days since the Love Language’s memorable weekend in New Orleans (which, in addition to the Hi-Ho show itself, included a Megafaun-recommended stop at Matassa’s and an afternoon at French Quarter Fest), including those who didn’t make the show and expressed their disappointment in missing a band that is surely “going places”.
And while statements like that are as plentiful and innocuous as the plethora of never-was bands that fail to live up to such expectations, the Love Language seem hellbent on being anything but “innocuous”. McLamb and Co. treated the evening’s enthusiastic crowd to a reputation-building performance, the exploits of which tend to travel by word-of-mouth throughout the country.
Truth is, this was the first time the Love Language approached a show in this manner. With the exception of house shows that lack formal stages, McLamb claims they’ve never set up on the floor before, choosing to do so on this particular evening simply because he found the stage at Hi-Ho a bit too tall for his liking. Nevertheless, it’s an openness to this type of spontaneity that can define a band and keep people interested for a long time. Austin’s …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead stopped trashing their equipment nearly ten years ago, but their reputation for bringing live shows to a destructive conclusion still to this day precedes them. This could very well have been one of those shows for the Love Language, the lore of which will follow them to the very end.
photo courtesy of Dave Woodard