Monday, April 15, 2013

Hey Marseilles and Hollow Wood @ the VaC (4/13/13)

I didn't get to see Hollow Wood at Treefort, but their opening set for What Made Milwaukee Famous had impressed me very much, so I was eager to check them out again.  Also, I liked the handful of Hey Marseilles songs that I listened to, so I marked this show down on the calendar.

I counted about seventy-five people when I arrived at the VaC.  During Hey Marseilles's set, I counted over a hundred.  The crowd seemed split evenly between twenty/thirty-somethings and forty/fifty-somethings.  I'd hazard a guess that most of the former were there for Hollow Wood while most of the latter were there for Hey Marseilles.  In any case, it was nice to see so many folks staying out late.

Hollow Wood opened the show.  When I step back and think about this group, they puzzle me.  Why should I like them so much when I have so little patience or regard for Typhoon, Bon Iver, the Last Bison and their ilk?  After all, they clearly draw from the same synthetic folk well.  It might be hometown chauvinism, but I don't think so.  Maybe they just do it right.

Not only will their melodies and harmonies bring tears to your eyes, their intricate, infectious beats dare you not to dance.  The polish and assurance of their songwriting and arrangements would be impressive coming from musicians twice their age.  Their friendly, all-embracing, high-energy stage presence kicks any hint of false gentility to the curb.  While Adam Jones--with his gravity-defying hair, manic strumming and goofy banter--is the clear focal point onstage, each band member feels like a vital part of the whole.  Sure, the vocals and the lyrics get a little corny, but so what?  People like corny.  I like corny (sometimes).

I try not to make predictions.  Still, when I think about this set--how the music ebbed and flowed, how a hush fell over the crowd just seconds into the first song, how people got up and moved forward right when Adam Jones invited them to, how Brian Bays from the Deadlight Effect came up to me afterwards completely blown away--I can imagine Hollow Wood playing to larger audiences in larger venues.  I can imagine them becoming one of the groups that people talk about when they talk about Idaho.

Hey Marseilles closed out the night.  This Seattle septet kinda came off as Hollow Wood's older, more settled-down brother.  Their steady waltzes, bright guitar, tinkling keyboard, comforting cello and violin and gentle tenor vocals called to mind Automatic For the People-era R.E.M.  Between their music, their clean-cut look and their discreet, polite stage presence, I could imagine these guys being in a spunky little power-pop band back in their college days before settling down to a life of mortgages, NPR, 2.3 kids and a couple glasses of wine on the weekends.  They still had some fire in the belly, though: their keyboard/accordion player climbed onto a speaker during their rousing closer, and the second song of their encore featured some rumbling drums and a nice rocking riff.  Not bad at all.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Sam Stimpert and the Visual Arts Collective.  If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, please click the "Give" button in the upper right-hand corner and donate whatever you can.  Even $5 can go a long way.

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