As I first entered the Canopy Club on Wednesday night, my attention immediately moved to the merchandise table where, hanging from a rack, was shirt for sale that read: WHO THE HELL IS HOUNDMOUTH? These were my thoughts exactly. Now, let it be clear that I walked into the venue with complete neutrality, but I knew nothing about the band that all my peers on campus had been raving about. When asking a friend to describe their music, her response was “I don’t know, maybe Folk? Indie? Some shit like that.” ‘Some shit like that’ is almost a fair represantaion of the unique sound of the three-piece from Indiana, but Houndmouths’ abilties are a very sharpened set of tools.
Before I could experience the enigma (to me) that is Houndmouth, Virginian singer-songwriter, Lucy Dacus, graced the stage to get us all ready. With subdued and serene vocals, Dacus and her guitar began their first song. If I were doing a blind listen, I might’ve mistook her for Elena Tonra of Daughter.
As she was coming out of her first piece, her accompanying band took the stage and poised themselves for the second. Similar to the first song, Dacus began with just her and guitar, the rest of the band joining her a few measures in. As an entire group, Dacus’ group was very well put together, and their tones created a sensationally warm feeling. This blended extremely well with the cool, alto register Dacus sings in.
While the musicality of Lucy Dacus is very pleasant, the first whole half of their set saw the same structure of Dacus beginning a song on her own and then the band chiming in to assist her. Very little movement by the members themselves were present, and this provided a repetitive lull at times. One of my favorite points was halfway through their set, on the fifth song when the drum kicked into gear, every guitarist was ripping away at their strings, and then Dacus, above the cacophony let out a guttural bellow that finally got me moving as well.
Overall, I did enjoy the music of Lucy Dacus. While I might not have gotten the level of intensity I would’ve liked from a live show, I’d put good money down to say her latest album, No Burden, would be a great listen during a bike-ride through Urbana. With lyrics that say things like “This is what I want to talk about,” one can really appreciate the sincere urgency that comes Dacus’ words.
Aside from the wall of amps and cabs set up at the back of the stage, the only decoration for Houndmouth was a small, pink neon sign with the band’s name, appearing as it does on their album cover. Dim at first, the sign lit up as the trio took the stage, accompanied by two saxophonists and a keyboardists. As the neon took filaments burned, the crowd began to come alive too. “You’re all crazy for being here on a Wednesday night,” drummer Shane Cody said to the crowd, a line which would, of course, only be returned with whoops and holler from the college crowd.
As the first song began, I understood why it was so hard to pin-point these guys to a specific genre. Their first piece had sultry grooves that were really accentuated by the skilled dudes on sax. I would’ve called it glittery pop-rock, but then they moved immediately into a song that I swore was an indie cover of Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock”. And just when I thought we’d be hearing these powerhouse anthems, Houndmouth hit us with a slow ballad, every chord rattling bones and floorboards alike. The slow ballad ended to take us to an even slower waltz. Until hearing the harmonies of guitarist Matt Myers and bassist Zak Appleby (occasionally Shane Cody would join in, too), I would’ve never guessed that I would I could rock out to a waltz, but somehow, Houndmouth pulled it off.
One of the many highs for me during Houndmouth’s set was when they busted out “Say It,” a singele from their year old, sophomore album, Little Neon Limelight. While the crowd knew the words to every song the played–a true testament to how well received this band is–they gave it their all for this song. The floor literally shook as the packed house stomped and jump. The electicity that Houndmouth brings to a live show can be paralleled by very few bands.
Their musicality, their live performance energy, these are all things that Houndmouth does well, but what Houndmouth does the best is highlighting every member of the ensemble, whether they are accompanying or part of the main crew. In their explosive thirteen song set and four song encore (an encore that the crowd emphatically demanded), each of the six men on stage got plenty of time for solos and recognition. A band roughly five years old, Houndmouth already has two full lengths under their belt; even with the recent departure of one of their original members, it is this shared compassion they have for each other, their music, and their fans, that has catapulted their success in such a short-time. If you haven’t heard of Houndmouth yet, consider this your introduction: this band is here to stay.