The wear and tear of life on the road is a badge of courage for most bands. An endurance trial, if you will. How many blistering live shows can a group put on before their tanks ultimately dwindle to E, and one unlucky crowd is treated to a 45 minute set on autopilot? 15? 20?
What was so special about seeing The Headlights, touring mates The Love Language and local power poppers The Triggers at the Brillobox last Sunday night was that the restlessness from weeks on the road pitched the show into a kind of euphoric fervor. With The Triggers aside (not because their show was subpar, far from it, but because they were exempt from the grueling tour schedule) The Headlights and The Love Language looked like they were made to play on the same bill, over lapping each others sets by bringing up band members on stage and incorporating a house party intimacy.
With a night that brought dreary rain after a weekend of exuberant, summer like weather, the crowd was not sparse, but smaller compared to more packed nights at the Brillobox, affording almost everyone in the room to get as close as they wanted to the stage.
The Triggers put on their usual sensational set, pumping out tightly wound cuts from their latest album, Smoke Show, with an energy few opening acts could replicate. I saw them at the Westiminster Coffee House in Mt. Lebanon last summer, a homecoming of sorts as they were playing a free show, and both sets throbbed with an infectious bounce that had both crowds tapping and dancing along. In terms of how a local act should perform in front of a national tour, this should be the gold standard.
Stuart McLamb, lead singer and songwriter of The Love Language, recorded most of the group’s self titled debut album by himself. He managed to put his seven piece band together, comprised of family, friends and musical acquaintances from Raleigh and Chapel Hill, NC, just two weeks before playing their first show, but, during this performance, the seams were all but invisible.
The most telling moment of the group’s chemistry came in the enduring, a capella harmonization for the first moments of “Manteo,” which brought the entire venue to a quiet halt before breaking into a sandy waltz of eclectic percussion and subdued organs. The barn burning pace of “Lalita” saw keyboardist Missy Thangs shuffle into the crowd with a tambourine, joyously skipping back to the stage to join Stuart’s brother, Jordan, for the earth shattering chorus. The Love Language put on a set similar to a basement show, with band members just happy to be jamming along side one another, swigging beers and smiling, dancing and shaking their heads.
The Headlights built off this generous atmosphere by stomping along with a heavy beat, and bringing out some seriously gorgeous songs from their latest album, Some Racing, Some Stopping. The most gorgeous of which is “Cherry Tulips,” the softly sweet ballad which brilliantly showcases keyboardist Erin Fein’s delicate vocals. I didn’t realize how intently I was watching her sing until a friend of mine causually pointed out, “dude, I saw your heart breaking when she ended that song.” I’ll confess, I was lost in the moment, cheesing on some serious sentiment and melodrama, but I am more than okay with that.
“Market Girl” pounced along untill the entire room was shimmying to some cruising guitars, and of course, a highly overactive tambourine. Various members of The Love Language slowly sauntered on stage through out the set, setting up shop in different corners of the stage, some grabbing a piece of their disassembled drum set to keep the collective rhythm section loud.
Talking to Headlight’s guitarist Tristan after the show, he admitted how much the two bands enjoyed touring together, even after only two weeks, and it was obviously apparent. They enjoyed playing music together, simple as that. It was well worth the price of admission to see two bands with some palpable happiness getting on stage together and loving every minute of it.