Hungary, Hungry Huskies – One Night in Paris with Sondre Lerche

Heilman’s set sits absent while Lerche performers (Photo by Eric Sandoval)

Jesse Marchant created soundscapes right off the bat – his looping pedal catching every articulation and reverberation of his electric guitar. Slowly and softly, he approached the mic and the room quieted to the tune of Marchant’s serious smirk. The tiny room echoed with Jesse’s voice, the quitter never ceasing beneath. While his left hand fluttered, his right played effortlessly. As he blatantly switched guitars, the roomed murmured – the lights breaking through Marchant’s mess of unkempt hair and tattered instrument. His lyrics swallowed and swayed between dynamic shifts of instrumentation. On his own, Jesse’s guitar supported him beautifully as the stage shook in tandem.

He spoke to us in French, telling us how magnificent of an experience it was to play for the first time at this bar in Paris. The Montreal native grabbed his electric guitar once again and led himself to the drum set on the right of the stage. He played the two instruments in a syncopated manner, driving the rhythm forward with the bass and cymbals – his guitar building as he sang. We bobbed our heads in response the pain and passion of Marchant’s lyricism pulling us forward. Take a listen to his new album below to get a feel for this man’s heart and soul:

http://jbm-music.com/music

Calmly and carefully, he moved through his set, allowing the voice of his various instruments to shine through the darkness of his lyrics and the stage itself. Employing various techniques to repeat and reverberate his guitar, Marchant’s lyrics flew magnificently above the bass and treble. Nothing could limit the ardent performer as he tuned his guitar to the hum of his harmonica. Jesse stared intently into the audience, listening to our reactions to his humble voice.

Marchant’s set built up charmingly, lifting our heads into the air with love and acceptance. At the end of his set, Jesse spoke to us – struggling with the word “grateful” and the crowd translated in a chorus of a language I didn’t understand. They cheered in response to his beautifully fluid French. His last song was a fury of fingerpicking, exposing the expertise of this magical musician. He smiled at us between moments of intense focus and we nodded to the resounding rhythm in response.

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Accented articulations flow from the opener’s instrumentations (Photo by ES)

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Marchant slams on an electronic bass pedal

With a thunderous boom, the drums hit so hard my beer moved swiftly across the stage. Sondre Lerche’s voice rung out over a distorted guitar. A visceral performer, Lerche touched his telecaster delicately – his body moving in violent spouts of celebration. He danced behind his guitar and looked up occasionally to take in the screams of the fan girls (and boys) in the audience. “You wanna dance?” he yelled to joyous acclaim, the floor shaking to the beat of the drums. As our bodies swayed to the newest single, “Bad Law”, his hands moved as if he was directing a choir. He truly did as we sang along with him, clapping in tandem and smiling as we mirrored his emotions.

Sondre flipped his hair back and forth, dancing to his tunes as if he was in the audience himself. His complex chords did everything but phase him, yet they rang beautifully through the little speakers that blasted within the venue of Divan du Monde – a bar in the heart of Paris’ club district. Bassist Chris Holm echoed the choruses, allowing us to be drawn to the lyrical trance that Lerche had undoubtedly put us under.

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Lerche and Holm create a syncopated symphony

With each solo, the guitar became more distorted until, after the first two songs, he took the time to introduce himself and the tour – reliving the past of his “pre-intercourse phase” to “see what the hell was going on” during that period of time. The old guitar resounded the classic Lerche, his playing in this concert building upon the past of his Faces Down and Dan in Real Life days. The riffs of his first albums rang out clearly from the classic cutaway Gibson – the drums amplifying their fever and juxtaposing today’s sound with the sound of the artist’s past. The stream below gives you a listen at the early Sondre Lerche:

His voice lower than before, Sondre’s vibratos remained powerful over the fluttering bass and flirtatious guitar. The crowd jumped in jubilation, our screams sometimes louder than the performer’s voice as we sang along to songs like “Say It All” and “No One’s Gonna Come”. He quieted us down to hear us sing with him, his voice and guitar escalating to empowering heights – rocking out with Dave Heilman on the drums until our ears had finally adjusted to the new interpretations of his oldest albums.

He spoke frequently of his past performances in Paris. At one point he referenced a bar that has since burned down – according to one audience member who seemed to know a lot about the current state of the city’s club scene. After apologizing for our loss, he entered into a reflection of those tours, his guitar fiercer than ever before. Jazzy yet incomprehensibly intense, the band played the old songs anew and the crowd relived their experiences of when they first heard Sondre’s voice – whether in the clubs of Paris’ past or in the comfort of their own homes.

Strobes blazed as blue notes blew from the speakers and the rest of the band left the stage. Sondre stepped away from the mic and he let the room carry his voice. As our singing finally faded away, he yelled over his electric guitar – the close-cut walls intensifying the performer’s unamplified melodies. “My Hands Our Shaking” came to a close, unaccompanied. Unexpectedly, Lerche began to sing “Like Lazenby” at the request of an audience member – apologizing to the sound crew in the back for not telling them he would play it before-hand.

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Sondre looks longingly into the audience (Photo by ES)

To the tune of our synchronous claps, the band returned to the stage – reviving the scene’s intensity. As the drums joined in, we all realized just how coordinated the whole performance really was. “Sleep On Needles” was played in sync, Sondre’s sweat dripping from his brow. The crowd began to shout more requests than they could handle and his only response remained, “So many hits!” he exclaimed.

As he introduced the merchandise, Lerche advertised his opener and the passion in his eyes burst forward with every word. During the entire performance, Sondre remained as thoughtful of a person as he was off the stage. After the show, I got a chance to speak with him, to ask what the difference was between the recent album, PLEASE, and the rest of his repertoire. “Time,” he responded, “It was 15 years – 32, actually, depending on how you count.” He smiled.

“My style changed gradually as time went on, but also I looked at other artists and was inspired by their music. The way they sounded, there was no way that the way I was writing could sound like that. So, for PLEASE, I decided to look at other ways to design a song – with a desire to shake things up.”

He went on to say how much respect he had for Jesse Marchant and other artists as they helped him find a new way to create. This inspired creativity showed strongly as the lights lit up the stage to “Sentimentalist” – one of the tracks off of the new album. As the guitar became ever-more complicated, Sondre’s movements became more and more terse and tense – until solo breaks and bass build released enough energy to allow for him to relax.

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Laughing and singing, the man dances behind the mic (Photo by ES)

As Lerche bathed in the almost-transparent light of the stage, the crowd went wild as the drums introduced songs like “Lucifer” and other hits from PLEASE. Heilman’s break beats – along with Holm’s funky rhythms – provided the powerful foundation to frontman’s lyrics, allowing us to dance to the sultry sounds that described the newfound Sondre Lerche.

He joked with his limited knowledge of French before introducing a track off of his self-titled record, “Private Caller.” To much acclaim from the audience, Lerche performed the music which he played on his last European tour – this time, Paris would be his first stop in a series of many more performances to come. As quickly as he put it down, the telecaster flew from Sondre’s shoulders – only to be replaced, once again, by the Gibson guitar.

A familiar riff rang out and “Two Way Monologue” had begun, one of the artist’s most successfully singles. Chris’ “ooh”s and “ahh”s only added to the amplifying intensity as Dave and Sondre riled us up throughout the song. At the end, Lerche taught us the chorus and made us sing a solo for him in response to the already brilliant performances that the band had just spent the last few minutes “showing off”.

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Lyrics flow from a man of many words

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Lerche’s old guitar marked the movements of his past (Photos by ES)

With a smile on his face, the sweat-drenched performer played one of his latest tracks, “Legends” – leading us in cheers of “Oh”s and “Whoa”s. After a brief remission to the back of the stage, Heilman returned to the stage with an overpowering “Merci Paris!” And, as the lights went up, the Bergen, Norway natives – Lerche and Holm – appeared in their rightful places.

After a track that packed us in and made the floor shift and shake, the band left Sondre on stage – standing alone and asking for one final request. We sang with him to the final song of the Dan in Real Life soundtrack (featuring Steve Carrell, Dane Cook, and guest-artist Regina Spektor), “Modern Nature”. The crowd swayed and swooned as the lights faded on the stage before us.

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DJ Desman

Hungary, Hungry Huskies – St. Vincent Rocks a Boat (Show Review)

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Annie Clark and Toko Yosuda bow their heads to rock

I arrived with a throng of hip-dressed Hungarians, our eyes wide open as we entered the multicolored array of dance lights that can be seen all along the straight of the Danube. 7pm is, by far, the earliest many of us have ever been on the notorious party boat, who hosts concerts and events every couple of nights – a staple in Budapest’s night life. On October 18, as a part of cafe Budapest – a yearly autumn festival featuring contemporary art, music, and performances – St. Vincent graced the tiny venue with an electronic foray of musical magic.

As the lights dimmed, a robotic voice appeared through the haze. It called to us as fellow analog listeners and urged us to refrain from “digitally capturing our experience.” Luckily, I was able to meet a lovely Lithuanian before the performance to capture the moments I would have otherwise lost due to my phone’s presence in my pocket throughout the show.

The band came forth in tandem, the lights dark and dimmed by the fog-filled room. In a flash, St. Vincent began with “Rattlesnake” and “Digital Witness” – the lyrics of which matching perfectly with the earlier sentiment of experiencing the concert in person, rather than through the lens of a phone screen.

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A concentrated Clark focuses on the performance

After a brief pause, the soul-shaking guitar riff of “Cruel” rang through the air – its piercing alternations doubling that of the keyboard, just an octave below. During this song, the contrast between the natural and unnatural established itself as a main theme of St. Vincent’s performance. As each song built upon the last, Annie Clark and her band moved more and more robotically until we all could recognize the synchronized movements as an integral part of the show.

As the energy following “Cruel” faded (Clark waited patiently for our cheers to subside), Annie spoke of the things that “we had in common”. This song-break spoke like poetry, her words desperately pulling us towards what she wanted us to be: a child in an inescapable world. The break ended with an anecdote about us wanting to “jump from our beds” on a “parachute made of blankets.” And, even though we “landed on the carpet… on our knees, we never gave up hope!”

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St. Vincent tells us a story

Through our screams of consensus, the keyboard and drums spelled out the opening notes of “Marrow” whose chorus, “H. E. L.  P. Help Me. Help Me” rang through the mouths of two-thirds of the audience – demonstrating St. Vincent’s enormous following that must exist in Eastern Europe. After the show, I met with humans from all nationalities – Hungarian, Serbian, Lithuanian and the like. As we all intermixed within the 300 or so person crowd, we not only witnessed – but participated – in Annie Clark’s wildly orchestrated madness.

A director of the stage, Clark waltzed around through strobes and flares. The band’s movements lined up with every beat, flash of light, along with each other. When the moment came for her to remove her instrument, Annie approached the stage crew and they fluidly made the change in a coordinated measure. Every time the lights blacked out, the crowd would erupt in a thunderous boom – the noise of the audience multiplied by the ship’s steel enclosure.

As the lights came up onto the stage, the figure of St. Vincent stood asymmetrically in front of us. The music began to ebb and flow as “Jesus” began. The ballad broke the reoccurring pattern of digital imagery – the movements of the band and the lights behind them mimicking that of the wind or the ocean. The natural sounds became distorted in the crescendos of distorted guitar riffs that introduced “Chloe in the Afternoon” – the keyboardist, Toko Yasuda, joining Clark with her punching electric guitar. The song ended in a clustered mess of arpeggios and slammed strings, Annie approaching the edge of the stage multiple times to show off her ardent talents – playing the strings of the instrument like grass in a meadow.

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Yasuda leads the background vocals and harmony

After waiting again for the crowd to quiet, Clark continued her story about the times we had in common as a child. She spoke of a fire that we built when we were younger, and “as we watched it burn, we knew we were supposed to be scared but…” she inquired deeply, her words appearing naturally although they were obviously a perfectly practiced insight.

The set continued and, in-between the songs “Actor Out of Work” and “Birth in Reverse,” Annie Clark did nothing but amaze us with her skill and passion when the time came for her to play the guitar. The solos in “Surgeon” and “Prince Johnny” stood out as two the strongest instrumental moments I have ever heard. By the time “Birth in Reverse” tore through the speakers, the crowd was so riled up that the boat was literally shaking in time with the music. The band and the crowd sang in sync during ballads like “Cheerleader” – the natural colored lights blinding us until Clark had been reduced to nothing but a silhouette.

We became a part of the performance as the show evolved into what felt like a Black Sabbath concert on shrooms. Strobes flashed, heads banged, and – as the band shuffled and snapped – the worlds of modern art and classic rock collided in the storm that was “Bring Me Your Loves.”

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Powerful performers command the stage with their music and movements

Quicker than they came, the band snuck off the stage immediately after the final song. We chanted in a chorus for Annie yet their return to the stage only came after the audience dimmed its cheers in sadness that the show may already be over. Yasuda entered and smiled from behind a glass of water as Annie played from back stage. When Clark was finally illuminated by the light of the stage, she squinted over us into the back of the club’s smallest room before flying into the center of “Strange Mercy”’s complicated drum-line. At the end of it, she threw herself into the arms of the audience. Guitar in hand, Annie played above us. She passed off her guitar to the members of the front rows so that we could play for her as she held her head back in ecstasy.

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Photos by Vilius Kubekas – Facebook

When she returned to the stage, the leading women fell to her knees and crouched next to the beat-up Stratocaster. As she slowly lifted her head, a member of the stage crew adorned her shoulders with a new guitar, like a crown of thorns on a weary Jesus-like figure. She once again amazed us with her final solos strewn throughout the song, “Your Lips Are Red.” With the magic of the fourth wall already broken, nothing could stop us all from singing along and creating the music with the rest of the band. They soaked in our melodies and cheers as they held their heads high – taking a bow with smiles on their faces.

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DJ Desman

Rad Report: Up and coming artist – Caroline Rose at The Vera Project

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I don’t usually follow country artists, but when I listened to Caroline Rose on her Soundcloud I was drawn to a vibe that her voice seemed to carry. Saturday, October 11th Caroline Rose walked into The Vera Project and onto the stage with a bang, wearing her head-to-toe red outfit as she swung her guitar over her shoulder. She puts her lips up to the microphone and softly spoke in her comforting and sparkling voice, “Thanks for not being at the Beyoncé concert tonight. There’s not actually a Beyoncé concert so don’t be alarmed.” The crowd laughed and started tapping their feet to her music as it began to fill the room. Despite the modest crowd, she started off by singing with the kind of voice that opens up a room to positive energy and good vibrations in a way that is impossible to not enjoy.

The liveliness didn’t stop with her music—her sarcastic and naturally hilarious nature continued to come out as she joked throughout the night. Though as the show proceeded, each song seemed to tell a different story of her personal journey. She paused from her innately jokey demeanor as she brought up her debut album I Will Not Be Afraid, which came out in August. This album—a culmination of six years of her work—contains some older songs from when she was only eighteen years old, and some newer ones that currently relate to her life as she pushes twenty-five (a birthday that she admitted to having mixed feelings on). But regardless of the extended period of time that it took to release this album, Caroline Rose has clearly made it a long way since she started in Vermont years ago!

Caroline Rose in America Religious

This shift in her music from older to newer was even apparent throughout her set Saturday night, as the genre of her music seemed to shift a bit. Her original sound of “vintage country” (a term she coined herself) began to transition into a somewhat southern blues with clear folk and rock influences. Now this was more my kind of music to jam to! Just after she leaned into the microphone one more time and whispered “it’s going to get loud in here” the energy was turned up to a whole new level. The rest of the night was full of even more dancing and excitement than it had been before as the crowd danced to Caroline Rose’s unique mix of music and verve that filled the room.

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Rad Rebs