I'd originally planned to see Captured By Robots at the Shredder this night, but then on the night before, I received an email from Rob Lanterman from the local band Sheep Among Wolves. They were opening for Lydia and From Indian Lakes at the Venue this Saturday, the letter said, and they'd hook me up with a ticket if I was interested in reviewing them. After listening to a handful of their songs and weighing the four acts I'd never seen on that bill against the two that I already had on the Shredder's, I decided that it'd be worth a shot. So, after Mr. Lanterman didn't balk at my standard don't-expect-a-good-review-just-cuz-you-give-me-a-ticket warning, I took him up on his offer.
Thirty-five people were already hanging around outside when I got down to the Venue. When the doors opened, I counted at least seventy. By the time that From Indian Lakes played, I estimated somewhere between 110 and 120 people in the crowd. A darn good turnout. I appreciated as well that the crowd was composed entirely of young, unfamiliar faces. When you see enough of the same people at show after show, you can start to worry that those are the only people checking out live music in this town.
Sheep Among Wolves opened the show. Their lead singer, Trevor Adams, had to attend a family reunion and couldn't make this gig. However, while Lanterman and company's light tenors had their limits, I've heard bands get by with much less. Besides, they had plenty of other stuff going for them: ringing guitars, hard but flexible grooves, an agreeably punk-ish stage act (lots of jumping and headbanging) and some droll, goofy banter. And while this group's explicit and unapologetic Christian beliefs would've undoubtedly made some of my fellow atheists/agnostics uncomfortable, I appreciated that their lyrics emphasized guilt, pain and struggle much more than redemption. Because of this, the Jesus Saves stuff felt hard-won rather than smug when it reared its head. I'd like to see the complete lineup, but going off what I saw and heard here, this is a very respectable group.
Sweet Talker played next. Just when I think I can't bear to hear one more friggin' cover of "Hallelujah," someone comes along and taps into that song's heartbreaking, unfathomable beauty once more. Thanks in no small part to Kevin Fisher's caressing, angelic high end, this Phoenix duo's take on the Cohen classic rivaled John Cale's and Jeff Buckley's. The misty keyboard, jangling guitar and smooth dance-beats of their originals proved equally enthralling. That name ain't no joke. Ethereal, utterly beguiling electro-pop.
From Indian Lakes played next (no points for guessing where they're from). Here was just the thing to amp the crowd back up after Sweet Talker. While their clean guitars and harmonies were plenty dreamy, their wailing distortion and lean, driving rhythm section brought the rawk. They got some big applause from the crowd and rightly so.
Lydia closed out the night. This Gilbert, AZ band's sound left a lot more room to breathe than From Indian Lake's did, but it was still plenty massive. Steady beats and fluid basslines supported breathy vocals, tingling keyboard and chiming, Edge-y guitar lines. Their tunes were so anthemic that I could've sworn I'd heard them before if I didn't know better. The audience had certainly heard them before, though: they cheered wildly at each song that frontman Leighton Antelman called and at quite a few of the ones that he didn't. Antelman gave as good as he got too--he playfully teased the crowd a little and seemed genuinely grateful for the adoring reception (even if they didn't play an encore).
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Rob Lanterman. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate whatever you can. Even $5 can go a long way. And all the best to Trevor Adams's grandma, who just turned eighty.