New England four-piece Quilt seemed in some ways to strike a happy medium between its two openers at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday night, making for a fine night of retrofitted psychedelic indie rock.
The Philly-based trio Hello Shark started last night out by quietly hustling through a spare and scruffy set of lo-fi, at turns quirky and catchy, lead singer Lincoln Halloran part Mangum and part Malkmus.
Weekender opened up on the throttle, erring on the side of lush. Also Philly-based, they worked in a video element manipulated in real time against their full-throated psychedelia, as bassist Brendan McGeehan doubled up in places on a second keyboard. Think Kula Shaker with a lead singer in socks and hair cut just like Danny Partridge.
Quilt play with the earnest energy of a new band and the musicianship onstage of a crew who have been doing this for years, despite being joined for only the second time by keyboardist June West hammering on her Nord Electro on almost every song as though she’d always been there. There’s no pretense, with this band, nothing ever overwrought or overstated. Just delicate strokes of tastefully applied instrumentation and harmonies that organically acknowledge forebears like The Jefferson Airplane.
Anna Rochinski’s evocative vocals wind playfully around the simple poetry woven into Quilt’s lyrics – which the band explored in an interview with our Noah Silvestry – and her stylish and fluid delivery seems at times to lend their songs an Eastern quality, enhancing the striking and often abstract imagery.
At one point, mid-show, drummer John Andrews took a rare crack at lead vocals, following a self-effacing announcement alluding to the conventional rock tropes about singing percussionists. But perhaps in contrast with that premise, that song turned out to be a set highlight, a performance that tapped into the same fundamental sense of joy that say the Monkees were always able to capture.
Maybe that shouldn’t have been the surprise it was set up to be. This is a band at their creative prime, rough with a youthful vibrancy but polished too with well-rehearsed stagecraft, delivering time and again with an obvious and infectious joy in what they do, and with music that makes you feel lucky to be alive to hear it.
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