HOUSE OF BLUES — 11/24/13: The dreaded common cold. It came out of nowhere, only two weeks after I endured the flu and one day into my Thanksgiving vacation. But it didn’t stop me from heading out to a sold-out House of Blues to see one of 2013’s feverish break-out synthpop bands, CHVRCHES. Just like my cold, they seem to have come out of nowhere with their catchy hooks and beats. Okay, I won’t drag that metaphor out any more, except to say their 2013 is nothing to sneeze at.
The evening began with Basecamp, a soul-meets-trip-hop trio out of Nashville. Points of reference for me included Doves, though these guys had more of a slow-jams-soul feel to them. Their sultry set was only 24 minutes (half of which I was photographing and only halfway listening); however, I did enjoy their EP on Bandcamp as I edited their photos.
With Basecamp playing such a short set, I hoped maybe CHVRCHES would start a little early (my nose wanted me to head home!), but they didn’t come on until 10PM sharp. I only just started to appreciate their music recently; all the hype on them (where does hype come from, anyway?) made me interested in photographing the show, and then I started listening to their music.
For me, references include New Order, M83, and more obscurely, singer Lauren Mayberry‘s voice reminded me of a British singer named Rose Elinor Dougall who I fell in love with at SXSW in 2010 and never heard from again. Their light show definitely lived up to the band’s hype, as well. The trio entered to a symphony of strobe lights before launching into their opening song, “We Sink,” which is one of the songs I’d been bopping to the week or so prior to the show.
“I’ll be a thorn in your side til you die” — how do they make lyrics like that sound so poppy and not like Nine Inch Nails? The lighting on this song made it more or less impossible to photograph, as it was all ambiance, but I was drinking in the atmosphere and feeling the beat. As they said in the good old days on American Bandstand, “It has a great beat, and you can dance to it.” CHVRCHES must live by that motto.
During the second and third songs, I was able to get a few shots, and although they definitely used more back lighting than the front lighting, I was hoping for to get better shots of the beautiful Lauren Mayberry. Those songs went by quickly, and it was then time to enjoy the rest of the show from the back of the room. From back there, I was especially able to enjoy the lighting (more than the music, considering the loud talkers at the back of the House of Blues).
As I enjoyed the lighting (which brought back fond memories of the video games Asteroids and Tempest), my mind kept wandering to wondering how bands become so famous so fast. Less than two years ago, I saw one of the members of CHVRCHES in a band called The Twilight Sad. I admit I only know that because I read their Wiki and then looked back at my photos of SXSW 2012, but there he is!
Fate is an amazing thing. Less than two years from that little club show and just one year from CHVRCHES’ debut single, he can claim a sell-out at the House of Blues (though the balcony was closed, it still counts!). But I don’t think I’ll ever understand how a band goes from “nothing” to selling out House of Blues in less than a year. It’s an amazing feat, not only for the band, but for everyone who works to build a band — label reps, publicity reps, management, etc…
After a few songs from the back, I moved around to the side to try to improve my perspective. I enjoyed the show more from the side, but then one of the guys in the band came out and sang (I believe “Under the Tide,” though I could be wrong), and it was a distraction for me. I didn’t want anyone else but Lauren in front.
Not long after that, they ended with their best song, album lead-off track “The Mother We Share,” and then off I went into the night, still with my stuffy nose but happier for the experience. Will CHVRCHES continue to pump out catchy, danceable pop songs? Let’s hope they do. END
(Photos [top to bottom]: Basecamp; Lauren Mayberry (CHVRCHES); CHVRCHES. All photos by Jason Smith.)