Concert Review: Now, Now at the Paradise in Boston, MA
When I comb the lists of bands coming to town, I scour not only for headliners, but always try to peep the openers, just in case. An all-ages Motion City Soundtrack show would not normally be the first thing to catch my eye, but when I scoped Now, Now tucked away on the bill, I immediately jumped at the chance to see these Minnesota wunderkinds.
I first heard of Now, Now when they were featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered, and their 2012 album Threads (produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla) is the only album that I have consistently recommended all year long. Lead singer/guitarist Cacie Dalager has a supernaturally delicate voice, and is backed by harmonies (and sometimes switched-off lead) with her vocal foil, Jess Abbott. With drummer Bradley Hale’s cleverly executed rhythms and aided by Dalager’s synth and laptop, Now, Now’s overall sound is a fusion of innocence and molten resonance. Not something you’d typically expect when the two long-time members, Dalager and Hale, met in high school marching band.
When the band came out to do their own setup, they were all looking a little tragically hip. Dalager had on a winter beanie and a denim vest over rolled-up sleeves – her haircut, not totally unlike her voice, reminded me of Tegan & Sara. Hale had the sides of his head shaved, while the top of his hair roamed free, and Abbott was the only one who looked a little more conservative with a butterfly collared shirt peeking out from her sweater. Essentially, Dalager and Hale looked like Urban Outfitters employees, while Abbott looked like the receptionist at Urban Outfitters HQ. While they set up and mic-checked I couldn’t help but be a little worried that this show was just not going to reach the pedestal upon which I’d cast this band.
I didn’t get the impression that the audience expected much, either. When the first band I Was Totally Destroying It announced the coming bands on the evening’s bill, headliner Motion City Soundtrack and pre-headliner Jukebox the Ghost received a tumult of whooping. In contrast, when Now, Now was announced, they garnered only a paltry few cheers. As soon as the show got going, though, any worry I had about their performance quickly dissipated – Now, Now’s live show is just as mature and moving as their album. Despite combatting some feedback issues, and even though Dalager’s mic really needed to be cranked up, Now, Now was breathtaking. I was especially impressed by Hale’s crafty drumming and the way that Dalager’s voice was as ghostly pure live as on record. I knew nearly all of their songs from Threads, and later stalked the lyrics for the only song I didn’t know, deciphering it as a Neighbors EP cut from Dalager’s tumblr. The young crowd warmed up to this band quickly, engrossed with head-nods, and by the end the applause was tremendous.
I have a few wish-list items for a future Now, Now show. For starters, while I don’t mind the lack of a drunk audience and zero line at the bar, I’d love to see these guys at a 21+ (or at least 18+) show, and I’d love to see them on a shorter bill. This band is just too talented to be relegated to a line-check, which made them appear less professional than they are. Paradise is a great venue, but I’d rather see them fill Great Scott and have them featured with a more compatible local or national act. Also, though I realize they don’t have an enormous catalog at this point, the songs they picked for their setlist were pretty uniform in pace and style. It was neat to see vocals switched off every once and awhile, and intriguing whenever Dalager or Abbott wandered over to play the glockenspiel, but I know that they have songs in their arsenal that mix up their sound, and I wish they’d incorporated that variety into their setlist. Specifically, their song “Dead Oaks” is one of my favorites, and I think even if they didn’t have time to squeeze that short poppy tune into their repertoire, they may have been able to sacrifice one of their other songs for the sake of adding depth to the set.
That said, I still love this band and I still loved this show. Now, Now continues to be among the best breakout artists of 2012, and I cannot wait to continue following them on their journey.
But I Do
Roommates – from Neighbors EP
*Photo courtesy of Now, Now Facebook Page