Garrett Wheeler discovers epic emo-pop.
By Garrett Wheeler
Being a music journalist is great, and not just because of the free shows. Why? We get to invent stuff, specifically words. I'm not kidding, it's awesome. How many other people get paid to offer their completely subjective (and inherently biased) opinion using descriptions that may contain entirely new adjectives, nouns and verbs? Very few, I'm guessing. Sure, there are plenty of genre names already coined by people with too much coffee in their bloodstreams, but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't throw our 2 cents into the Wikipedia wind. Indie rock? Pshhh, I can do better. How about post-popcore? Now that's got a ring to it. Of course, I can't top all of 'em: shoegaze, grime music and sadcore are some of my faves.
Lucky for me, last Tuesday night provided plenty of new material. I relish the opportunity to throw on the ol' thinking cap and bust out a few newbies, so when I sat back at the Crepe Place and listened to a couple, ahem, indie-rock bands, my mind churned with excitement. The first group was Brooklyn, New York's Drew Victor, so named for the guy who fronts the band: a thin, smirking dude wearing butt-tight jeans and a fedora. With a double string contingent (violin and cello) producing sweeping, sad tones, the group proved that it's not just hip to have strings in an acoustic rock band--it actually sounds cool too. Really cool. Textures were rich, dark, and kind of creepy--acoustic gloompop at its best. After a few ambling ballads, Victor picked up the pace, dishing out an upbeat number with nice vocal harmonies and a folk-inspired chord arrangement. But the optimism didn't last, as the group ended the set with a slow, creeping tune that made the Place seem haunted by emo-ghosts: eerie, but kind of silly.
The night's headliner, Grand Hallway, drove down from Seattle, so I didn't foresee a drastic mood change. And at first, there wasn't. The band opened with a slow, jazzy intro that sounded vaguely Jeff Buckleyesque, with frontman Tomo Nakayama crooning through several octaves while stroking a few somber piano chords. Dreamy, forlorn and psychedelic in a late-Beatles kind of way. I began formulating my descriptive noun--trippy alt-poprock. Yeah, not my best work, but I think it fits. Looking around, I noticed that only a few people had stuck around--I guess midnight on a Tuesday isn't exactly happy hour, but I was enjoying myself. Grand Hallway didn't seem to mind the solitude. In fact, their setlist seemed to fit the vibe of the half-empty restaurant, as sorrow gave way to more sorrow in the form of a weeping slide guitar solo. As I fought the impulse to sob like a tireless infant, the group slipped into its third song, and thankfully, it was at least partially upbeat. The lyrics were in Japanese, but the melody seemed to convey a conflicted sentiment, perhaps describing a bittersweet reflection on a past lover, or a child coming of age. The next tune was positively joyful, with a melody reminiscent of the Beatles' "Penny Lane," and a boisterous piano part to match. And then came what was probably their strongest tune of the night, a sweeping, epic number that covered a wide dynamic range, climaxing in an outburst of raw emotion. I'll call it epic emo-pop--and call it good.
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