This is a two-gig week! Last night I went to see Lissie play an acoustic set at Rough Trade. Tonight I'm seeing The Growlers at Irving Plaza.
Lissie, a singer songwriter from Illinois who I have loved for about 6 years, was predictably stellar. She is amazing I can't say enough good things about her. Especially in contrast to her two support acts - singer songwriter girl and singer songwriter boy. They were both good, decent songs lovely voices, stage presence. Or so you think until Lissie comes out and blows the roof off with her warmth, genuine appreciation for her fans, lack of preaching/overshare between songs (singer songwriter boy was too smug for my liking) her pure rock n roll energy and her VOICE. Her voice is nuts. Her records don't do it justice. The sound of just her and an acoustic guitar is so moving, she has a great rasp but is still resonant and clear as a bell - positively sonorous, in fact. Plus there's a pretty, sweet tone. All of that in one go. Come on.
She's also great because she's not doing a 'thing'. She's not going 'I'm a retro revival soul singer' a la Adele. She's not going 'I'm kooky and acerbic' a la Lorde. She's certainly not going 'I wear my heart on my sleeve and I don't care who knows it! FEEELIIIIINGS/aren't I adorable' a la Taylor Swift. She just writes songs and then sings them. You can draw sound comparisons to perhaps Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac. You can say there's a good amount of country sensibility in some songs, deliberately so. She has uptempo poppy numbers, and throwback rock n roll numbers, yearning ballads, folk and country inspired narratives. But she just wrote songs and they came out that way, there's no agenda.
She's kind of the ultimate flipside to the Taylor Swift coin in fact. Some years ato two pretty long-legged blonde girls learned to play the guitar.
One wrote candy pop songs about teenage heartbreak, tween girls began to worship her as a prophet, she made a fuck ton of money and played huge stadium tours with big name guest stars, she bought a crazy expensive apartment in New York, made friends with lots of other pretty tall famous girls, wrote catchy pop hits about her media feuds and public persona, and achieved huge fame and fortune.
One wrote folky rock n roll, wore jeans and tshirts 24/7, released a record and played music festivals and small venues, was loved deeply by her fans, continued to write solid songs that she just felt like writing about her home/love/family/ environmentalism - whatever was important to her, lived on a farm in Iowa, carried on wearing jeans and tshirts for all her gigs, carried on playing non-stadium venues, released more great music and some excellent covers.
She played such a good set with 200% energy and commitment throughout. You felt like she was having a good time and was happy to be in a room with all these people who enjoy her songs. She is a real person who communicates naturally and generously. She treats her fans like actual friends without all the screaming and hugging and selfie-taking.
Err yes I quite like Lissie did I mention?
On to The Growlers...meh.
Disappointingly meh. I will say I'm in no way a die hard Growlers fan as I am Lissie so that probably didn't help my perception. They write what they have deemed 'beach goth' - fuzzy guitars, vocal effects, 1960s doo wop rhythms and studied nonchalance. The songs are good, if I was having a barbecue or party they'd make great ambience music, I have them on when I read or cook sometimes. I like The Growlers.
Except now I'm kind of cross with them. They gave zero energy to a one hour set. There are six solid band members, they put a pretty big emphasis on lights and backdrop FX so half the work is done for them in terms of looking interesting while standing and playing songs. They had a good crowd who were ready to party. And they just walked their way through the whole set. I didn't get any energy from them until the last song and encore as if they were glad to be done. The songs sound good live although it really highlighted how similar a lot of them are - nooooot great in my book. It makes them seem like lazy songwriters who are more dedicated to maintaining their 'thing' - in this case beach goth - than in writing songs that are just plain good.
Also the balance wasn't fantastic - vox were fuzzy beyond the point of cool effects and to the point of rendering the lead singer ineffective. Some things that work well on a record did not translate that well. Maybe it was just whoever was on sound that evening but either way not a great factor.
And so. I stayed, I bopped, I listened. Overall I was not that impressed and was struck by the vast gap between The Growlers with bells and whistles sleepwalking through a set and Lissie, alone, acoustic guitar, no effects, no wacky lighting and a driven, outstanding live show. Also she was one hour later at night than they were. No excuse, Growlers. Having said all that I'm very glad I saw them I've been meaning to for about two years.
In other music news: where will I be next June 18th?
Madison Square Garden seeing The Cure that's where!!!
Where will I be this Sunday night?
Rocking out to my awesome roommate's awesome band The Fine Machines at Rockwood Music Hall that's where!
This is a really really good music week for me.