Live Review: Hurricane Bells — The Echo, Los Angeles
Sun, 09 May 2010 15:17:32
When you walk into a small music venue like The Echo, you don't expect to be shivering and have enough room to do a series of backflip-cartwheel combos across the floor without hitting a single soul. Yet on Friday, May 7, this was the exact atmosphere preceding the Hurricane Bells set. Surprisingly so, since the opening band, Obi Best, was an engaging pop rock outfit playing songs that sounded like modern adaptations of the ocarina themes from Zelda–typically a draw for geeky 20-something hipsters.
After getting properly amped by the juxtaposition of Obi Best's innocently lilting vocals and hints of electronica, I was excited for headlining act, Hurricane Bells. I was expecting the same level of underground rock innovation that has come from some of their fellow Twilight artists. (Hurricane Bells' "Monsters" was featured on the Twilight: New Moon Soundtrack among great tracks from Grizzly Bear, Lykke Li, Thom Yorke, St. Vincent and more).
Hurricane Bells came sauntering on stage in perfect rock fashion, aloof from the crowd of revelers standing below. ¬¬Steve Schiltz started the set not by introducing his band, but by pleading with the small audience, apathetically standing far from the stage, to move closer. It makes you wonder if the first thing a band does is appraise the size of its audience and then decide they will only put in an effort directly proportional to the number of fans who show up…
The first song gradually escalated to a boisterous chorus, building hope that in this instance, the aforementioned would not be the case. However, transitions to the second and third songs were rather lackluster. The band seemed to deflate with each and every verse for those first few numbers. Could I really not hear the harmonies they painstakingly appeared to create, or were they really not harmonizing at all, only going through the physical motions to make it seem as if they were?
For the first show of a tour, I was surprised by Hurricane Bells' general lack of enthusiasm. The seemingly limitless energy a band typically exudes at that first show – when they still believe they can move mountains with the power of their music – was missing.
As more Converse-clad kids walked in, the beat picked up and Hurricane Bells' solid yet formulaic musical arrangements finally gained a bit of momentum. But it was too little too late to gain the crowd's undivided attention, or at the very least, mine.
Overall the show consisted mainly of Steve's self-indulgent mid-song guitar jams and tactless egotism made evident by little quips like, "This is a song my last band could never play well enough, so I'm trying it again now." Some swagger is always expected in a rock band, but this much from a band that drew so few to their show was exceedingly off-putting.
In the end, I wish I had caught more of Obi Best and less of Hurricane Bells. Maybe then I wouldn't have been left feeling so cold and unsatisfied.
Were you there?