In music circles, “hiatus” can be a really nasty term. More informative than the realization that a local band hasn’t played a gig in while but somehow also more discomforting that a formal breakup announcement, hiatuses would represent an awful purgatory if they didn’t usually imply much worse. Those of the “unofficial” kind often become official, while the “indefinite” ones usually stay that way. So when Lovey Dovies lead guitarist and singer/songwriter James Hayes nonchalantly announced at the Howlin’ Wolf Den in March that the band planned to take “a few months off” after their spring sweep through the Midwest and East Coast to support a masterful full-length debut album, it was more than a bit unnerving and especially disappointing in light of their intensity during that evening’s heavy take on a their sharp catalog of sludgy power pop.
But Hayes was true to his word, and after a few weeks of relative inactivity he quietly returned to the studio in July to begin work on the Lovey Dovies’ sophomore album. Then, after lending his formidable percussion chops to the recording session, Eric Rogers – also of Empress Hotel and Vox And The Hound – was added to the band’s (local) live lineup as former drummer Dan Fox stepped out front to throw an extra guitar into the mix. With a few new songs in the can and an intriguing personnel shift afoot, the Lovey Dovies’ comeback show on Monday night was everything one could hope from a band returning from a hiatus.
That the Dovies actually returned to the stage at all is nothing to take for granted in a city with as maddeningly insular and under-appreciated an independent rock scene as we have in New Orleans, but the group also sounded refreshed and re-energized, with their expanded arsenal both filling out and also adding space to songs new and old. As a card-carrying member of at least two other highly-active local bands, it’s not hard to catch Rogers performing around town; but with no other act does he play with the voracity and dexterity he unleashed as part of the Lovey Dovies rhythm section. And with percussion duties well-attended to, Fox was free to bound around stage right with a guitar, alternating lead and rhythm duties with Hayes and allowing the lead singer to more deeply explore and engage his jangly tunes of distorted heartbreak. If only all hiatuses worked out as well as they did in the case of the Lovey Dovies.