Concert Review: Houndmouth at Royale in Boston, MA
Reviewed by: Dorise Gruber
I’m not generally the kind of person that follows a band around while they tour, but I’d had Houndmouth on my radar after seeing their Wilco/Billy Bragg A.V. Undercover appearance, thus while vacationing in Arizona a couple weeks ago scooped the opportunity to see the band play Tucson’s Club Congress – a venue perhaps the size of Great Scott but with moody red lighting more apropos of The Paradise. With an audience so spare that it hardly comprised a minyan, lone female vocalist Katie joked, “I feel like we should all be on a first-name basis.” While on the brisk desert evening they put on a solid show, that performance was a mere honey drop to the Winnie-the-Pooh sized tub of energy at last Thursday’s Newport Folk Festival-sponsored jaunt on Royale’s stage.
With a Newport Folk Festival-style mini-intro from its Producer, Jay Sweet, a full lineup comprised of NFF 2013 vets, and an audience roughly 20x the size of their last show, the difference in feel was marked (Katie even pointed out that this was their biggest show outside of their home region). Though this certainly brought out the best in the band, it was a tough round through the openers. Not that the music was awful, though perhaps a little too hackey-sack bro-rock-y for my taste, but there were some serious duds in this crowd. During The Ballroom Thieves’ quietest 3-part harmonies the audience wouldn’t stop yammering, and the local Jersey-Shore look-alikes would hoist their PBRs in the air and incessantly holler commentary at the stage. It was only during Houndmouth that people finally quelled the shouting, or redirected it to yelling at Katie about how hot she was, anyhow. And Katie *is* gorgeous, of course, but I’d be more impressed if they’d shouted about her singing. Or about how her leggings matched Matt’s guitar strap. Or about Shane’s cool Indiana tattoo, Matt’s Starsky & Hutch tee and his Coors mountain tattoo, or Zak’s “Work Hard” trucker cap. Maybe if those bros laid off the protein shakes and their shirts stopped being so tight they wouldn’t feel the need to shout so much. I’m not sayin’ but I’m just sayin’, kehds.
But I digress. And really, I can’t complain too much, since I was still the beneficiary of a set running on audience-fuel. The band members had more room to run around on the Royale stage than at Club Congress, but filled the space easily. The set was longer, infused with more covers, and more new material than the last. The Indiana band offers a very Midwest-style of folk – kind of grungy but still smoothed by 4-part harmonies, Matt/Zak/Shane’s vocals blend easily, and Katie’s vocals add a liquid aluminum that electrifies the harmonies and rattles their core. Their songs are super catchy without being poppy, and it’s easy to join in for most choruses even on first listen only.
When the Ballroom Thieves wrapped, they ended with a playful warning about the impending Houndmouth set, “Take your socks off – they’re about to get knocked off.” By the end of the Houndmouth set, nearly all members had played a stint on nearly every instrument, they’d made it through nearly every song on their debut From The Hills Below The City 2013 release, they were joined by the Wheeler Brothers in a The Band cover, and at the grand finale Matt shredded 3 guitar strings while Shane beat his drums with such fervor that his cymbals all came crashing down. When they exited the stage, the only thing left to view were strewn cymbal-carcasses. Needless to say, socks were sufficiently knocked.
Sorry Tucson – I like visiting you, but if this show was any indication of the impact Boston can have on a touring artist, I’ll contend with the winters and the Red Sox Beards. Boston wins for concert viewing superiority, hands down.
1) Can You Get To That (Funkadelic Cover)
2) Come On, Illinois
3) My God (new song)
5) Long As You’re Home
6) Houston Train
8) On The Road
9) Golden Slumbers (Beatles Cover)/Carry That Weight (Beatles Cover)/Halfway to Hardinsberg (Houndmouth) medley
10) Hey Rose
11) Game Show
12) Untitled (new song) – “I seen the good/I seen the bad/I seen the good and the bad/I seen the boys/I seen the girls/I seen the boys and the girls”
13) Casino (Bad Things)
2) I Shall Be Released (The Band cover, joined by Wheeler Brothers)
3) Comin’ Round Again