Less than a week into their nearly 9-month long U.S. run on the III World Tour, The Lumineers brought warmth to a cold and snowy St. Louis night through spirited storytelling and electric performance at Enterprise Center.
This past year saw the release of the Denver-based Americana group’s third studio album, III. The project was daring, veering almost completely away from the foot-stopping, hand-clapping hits that the group is known for to delve into the dark and and tangled web of the cycles of addiction. But what the album lacks in light-heartedness, it makes up for in it’s expertly crafted stories and songs. The group’s founding members, vocalist/guitarist Wesley Shultz and drummer/pianist Jeremiah Fraites, have been together on their musical journey for just shy of two decades now, and III has brought new clarity to just how talented they are at what is proving to be their true craft: songwriting.
Very little was traditional about the album, which was released in 3 chapters, each one focusing on a different generation of a family whose life has been deeply affected by addiction. The album saw a heavy emphasis placed on the visual aspect of storytelling as well; the band released a music video for every song on the album, and large video screens let concert-goers experience those stories live as the band played the album through and the videos played behind them. While the family depicted, also known as the Sparks, are a fictional family, their stories come from a very real place.
The Lumineers played the new album in its entirety (although not in order as it was originally released) as well as plenty of fan favorites during their set, which lasted nearly 2 hours. The first half of the show contained many of the band’s earlier hits although content from III was dispersed throughout, proving that songs from the dark storybook of an album could stand on their own as well.
While so much of the night dealt with heavy subject matter, The Lumineers didn’t let it weigh them down, and the energy was always light-hearted, electric, and engaging. Of the band’s massively successful breakthrough hit, “Ho Hey”, Shultz encouraged the crowd to join in (as if there was any planet on which they wouldn’t) as he humbly told the audience that to the band “it doesn’t even feel like our song anymore; It feels like a cover.” The stadium was eager to claim it as their own.
In terms of actual covers, the Lumineers busted out a spirited version of Dylan’s fast-paced “Subterranean Homesick Blues” as well as bringing out openers Matt Quinn of Mt. Joy and J.S. Ondra for a moving take on Cohen’s “Democracy”, which is included as a bonus track on the album.
As the night wore on the band got more serious, with the back half of the show containing almost exclusively songs from the grim III, including alternative radio-hit “Gloria”, which at first listen may sound like a bright and shiny sonic match to early Lumineers numbers, but a closer listen to the lyrics would reveal the hopeless and manic addiction fueled-world meant to be represented.
Before “Leader of the Landslide”, one of the pinnacle moments from the album, Shultz took a moment to speak of what the record means to him and his own experiences trying to help a family member battle addiction. “What I learned is that standing up against addiction is like standing up in the ocean,” he said. “It’s so hard.” He dedicated the heart-wrenching and powerful song to those in the audience going through similar experiences.
Despite the large group on stage, which included violinist Lauren Jacobson, pianist/accordionist Stelth Ulvang, bassist Byron Isaacs and percussionist/guitarist Brandon Miller in addition to Shultz and Fraites, the feeling on stage was always intimate and that of one big, happy, musical family. The group was constantly in motion, often swapping out instruments or venturing out onto the stage’s various ramps to be closer to the encircled audience. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects about watching the group is how much fun they seem to be having amongst themselves. Every member seems to possess a true sense of camaraderie that is rare to see with bands playing venues of this size. The Lumineers had a childlike lightness in their step as they danced, frolicked, and (if you’re the wacky, barefooted Ulvang) leapt 10 feet into the air off of pianos.
Shultz, as close as one can get to being an Americana Rockstar, was no exception to this. The frontman nonchalantly disregarded this status and casually hopped off the stage, unencumbered by security, to immerse himself in his audience. He journeyed around the arena for a song, climbing up almost to the nosebleeds to high-five and connect with adoring and respectful fans before returning to stage.
The show closed after a fiery encore with longtime fan-favorite “Stubborn Love”, which audience members joyously clapped, danced, and passionately belted along to with the band before saying goodbye to the always gracious folk-rockers.
As the band loaded out and fans sauntered out into the icy winter night, many concert-goers milled around the arena floor, talking and laughing quietly amongst themselves as adults and children alike gathered and tossed handfuls of the earlier-released confetti and continued to spin and dance in the paper rain as it fell back to the ground, the elation of the experience not quite worn off yet. Unwilling to wake up from the Americana- dream world that we all had spent the night dazing in, they remained there as I reluctantly left to rejoin the real world. Can’t say I blame them.
The end of October brought with it more than just a weather cool-down. As we started to bundle up for the winter ahead, we took time to pause on a breezy Autumn evening to celebrate the last 2 years of accomplishments with Imperfect Fifth. We were lucky enough to partner with Do Good Co., an incredible company on 38th Street in Kansas City, MO, who was also celebrating their 2nd birthday that evening. Together, we brought in vendors (Sugar Buffet KC, Scorpio Rising Botanicals, Crystal Ramirez Jewelry) and unique shopping opportunities with an evening of music and fun. Guitarist James Schneider opened the evening, followed by the talents of Danza Special and Fathers. We captured some photographs, caught up with friends, and were able to celebrate some incredible people locally, to boost our change globally.
Check our merch shop all week for discounts! Sales end at midnight, 11.11!
**photos by Erin P.S. Zimmerman, Elizabeth Schneider, and Meredith Schneider
If you haven’t experienced KONGOS live yet, it’s really high time you should. The South African quartet — comprised of brothersJohnny Kongos, Jesse Kongos, Dylan Kongos, and Daniel Kongos — boasts incredible vocal harmonies and layered, striking instrumentals (hello, accordion!). Their captivating stage presence is no surprise, as their musician father must have had quite the influence on them. Just a few days after spending time in the studio with Hanson in Oklahoma, the brothers performed compellingly to an audience in Kansas City, MO. Nothing could have been more beautiful than the full moon on October 13th, shining brightly over this collective crooning to the patio stage at Riot Room.
Through every track, there was a sense of belief in the story that was being told. At times the vocals were raspy and rough, while at others there was a smoothness you almost didn’t expect from this handsome group of men. Regardless of its delivery, each song felt so effortlessly inspiring. For example, during the more tropical-infused track “I Am Not Me”, the audience sang at the sky, as though every individual was having the same existential realization at the exact same time. It was such an intensely beautiful moment, illuminated by the red stage lights, that by the time we got to crowd favorite “Come With Me Now”, I felt like most of the audience had become family. Litter percussive tracks like “Birds Do It” and “I’m Only Joking”, and you’re in for a night of blissful camaraderie with strangers, no matter your surroundings.
What was perhaps most notable was the friendliness with which the group welcomed the crowd and shared anecdotes to introduce their songs. I’m not certain what it was, but a sense of magic surrounded this performance that I wasn’t altogether expecting. Charming, incredible musicians with a lot of love and fire for their work. And simplified, that’s the experience KONGOS creates.
Next Tuesday, October 8th, join us at the intimate Folly Theater in Kansas City as we welcome The Bacon Brothers on their latest tour, The Shaky Ground Tour. The Philadelphia-based genre-bending collective — comprised of Michael Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Paul Guzzone, Tim Quick, Frank Vilardi, and Joe Mennonna — has been lending their talent to the advancing Americana scene for decades. Though the two namesakes of the act have been making music together for most of their lives, they began to record music with this project in 1995.
So, if you haven’t heard of them yet, then your head is officially under a rock.
The perfect news in all of this? They have been touring pretty heavily as of late and — though originally they were only to come as close as Des Moines to the actual heart of America — added us to the tour a little later in the game, which made our hearts absolutely swoon.
Their latest single “Play!” that was released earlier this summer received critical acclaim and served as the backdrop to hot summer nights at the tail end of our warm months. Just enough of a boogie flare wraps itself in a warm embrace around such a beautiful chord progression, and we’re just so excited to see this one performed live.
Take an evening off and visit these Grammy-nominated musicians on Tuesday evening, October 8th. Tickets are available here.
See you on Tuesday! In the meantime, keep up with the brothers here!
On Monday, September 30th, we were thrilled by the crowd packed into Kansas City’s recordBar to enjoy an evening of music by Noah Gundersen. Quite honestly, weeknights in Kansas City are difficult to draw fans out for, especially with our weather being so unpredictable. But the night was beautiful, and the music was absolutely enthralling.
Packed to the brim, there was an excitement in the air as we pushed through the doors on that beautiful autumn night. Couples in droves, though largely we noticed how wide Gundersen’s audience is, as there was no obvious demographic. Young, old(er), couples, single people rocking out, people in all types of outfits and moods. It was probably the most intense melting pot we have been a part of in a while, and it was thrilling.
As soon as the first chords of “Robin Williams” came from the speakers, the entire crowd was captivated. As you can view in some of the following photographs, the audience was respectful of the ambience of each song, making sure to slow down and engage on a different level with songs such as “Heavy Metals”, “Watermelon”, and “Bad Desire”. And we truly can’t blame them. Noah does an amazing job at making each person feel as though they are the only one in the room, both with the emotion in his vocals, his intense gazes into the audience, and his inventive and beautiful musicianship. But he didn’t stop there, and the setup’s light display was actually mesmerizing as well. We can only imagine how intricate a show in a less intimate venue would be, and we can’t wait to see him come back through town.
Out of Time
Send the Rain (To Everyone)
Kamikaze (with Lemolo)
All My Friends
Loop pedal and guitarist goddess Sidney Gish just began a month-long, coast-to-coast U.S tour, and this past Friday she was emphatically received by a full house in the City of Brotherly Love. The 14-song set was the perfect length, given the relative brevity of Gish’s indie rock/blues infused jams. A majority of the setlist were numbers from her 2017 album No Dogs Allowed, with a healthy mix from slightly earlier 2017 album Ed Buys Houses, as well as a classic Talking Heads cover thrown in the mix.
Accompanied by opening group Another Michael, Gish played the PhilaMOCA, whose ambiance is a welcoming cross between a large house show space and a small theatre. It is comprised of one large room, its l walls plastered with posters from past events, and lined neatly by a carpeted second floor balcony, wrapped in twinkle lights that provide a comfortable dim. Upstairs on the balcony, worn-looking sofas and easy chairs were inhabited by cozy-looking people. The entire vibe was ideal for Gish’s set, which demands rapt attention to her rapid fire lyricism, as well as the rhymes she drops like flies.
Gish’s self-conscious sense of humor was both immediately endearing and a lovely show of levity; as she addressed the crowd with quips like “I love to tune instruments, I really do!” Throughout her time on stage, sometimes in the middle of songs, she’d check the inside of her wrist for her handwritten set list. Gish’s stage presence is an act in itself, because though she seems cheerily nervous, her jokes land – and that’s hardly to mention that her musical consistency remains solid and unflappable.
The singer-songwriter opened with deeper cuts, then filed into her more commercially popular songs as the night went on. First was “Mouth Log”, followed by “I’m Filled With Steak, and Cannot Dance”, both from No Dogs Allowed. The latter track is a prime example of excellent vocal control in sliding, perhaps even cascading, down waterfall runs that smoothly drop you off only a few feet from where they picked you up. Plucked harmonics and a perpetuating bongo on loop punctuate this track, and breezily perforate any tension found in the room.
The next three tracks Gish played were all gems mined from No Dogs Allowed: “Good Magicians”, “Impostor Syndrome”, and “I Eat Salads Now”. Always with meticulously intentionality, Gish grants herself plenty of room to play in the spaces between spiteful and vulnerable, dynamic and gentle, raspy and fluttery. Her fingers flying on the jazzy riff within “Impostors Syndrome”, she seamlessly shifts from demanding attention to turning it away. Gish launches her inward-facing observations up into the hall, open confessions to everyone.
In the moments following the fading applause, Gish chirped cheeky narrations to the crowd, her eyes cast down as she set up her guitar: “I play it on this capo, normally.” She looked up and giggled: “Information for no one.” The next song, “Friday Night Placebo”, is a tribute to her gifts of sarcasm and satire, bubbling along a guitar tone that is deep, ringing, and somehow nautical. Lyrically, this track is reflective of fragility and vulnerability – but only on the surface. Gish’s sardonicism cuts to the core, as she chides, “It’s fine, I’ll pop sugar pills all night.”
After a cover of Talking Heads staple “This Must Be The Place”, Gish hit the crowd with three of her most popular tracks: The clicky “Sophisticated Space”, mesmerizing “Rat of the City”, and communal “Homecoming Serf”. An augmented vocal presence is a marker for these tracks, as the singer’s rasp (no doubt a parallel for her indignation toward mundane suburban life) continues to escalate among the captivating vocal melodies.
Next up from Gish’s repertoire were three of my personal favorites in immediate succession: “Sin Triangle” and “Persephone” from No Dogs Allowed, and “Presumably Dead Arm” off of Ed Buys Houses. “Sin Triangle” is arguably Gish’s grooviest track, and would fit quite comfortably on a party playlist; unlike “Persephone” and “Presumably Dead Arm”, which are reflective and thought provoking; each one a cure-all for listeners’ varying feelings of being misunderstood. That said, all three were fascinating to experience visually: The building anticipation in the room was tangible as Gish built the loop tracks for each song, riff by riff.
The last song of the night was “If Not For You, Bunny,” and though sonically, its recording crystallizes seamlessly with the rest of No Dogs Allowed, Gish used it to cast an undeniably punk spell upon the crowd in Philadelphia. Murky, crunchy guitar distortion and the wailing, bittersweet solo that it tore through the end of the song emanated that, however selectively, Gish puts the “rock” in indie rock.
“Unapologetic” is not the word for Sidney Gish, because it’s clear she never even considered apologizing – Why would she? Gish offers up her flaws but never asks for comment on them; painting herself as
reactive, self-assured, and captivatingly self-conscious all at once. It was a fantastic show, and we can’t wait to hear (and hopefully see) more of Sidney in the very near future.
You can listen to Sidney Gish here. You can follow her on social media below: