Wednesday night I hauled all the way up to one of Philly's newer consistently quality music venues Kung Fu Necktie to see The Love Language and Headlights (I will confess to a bit of poor reviewer performace...I missed their set due to a previous obligation but I hear it was v. good). Local act The Robes opened which I was looking forward to because they are involved in a little project I have in the works with some other Philly music kids (more on that to come....). Their sound has a crust of potential that with a little more time and work could melt into a tasty glaze. They do have a really comfortable stage presence though, which made watching them kind of like have a private jam session with friends.
The Love Language set up next and considering their's is a cast of seven it was a pleasantly quick switch. This motley crew efuses gritty lo fi rock with a touch of a southern lilt on their record so I was interested to see how it played live. Well, I can tell you it plays true and then some when you get them on stage. The Love Language is the baby of Stuart McLamb who created the group in an unusual manner, he had the name first and built out from there. Assembling an assortment of friends and family each contributing some serious chops to their unique version of an old school pop sound (and if for you that means N'sync stop reading and go buy Pet Sounds NOW thank me later). They admit to a large swath of musical influnce and touches of Buddy Holly, Jefferson Airplane, The Walkmen and even Roy Orbison are evident and despite this seemingly random amalgum they produce a very deliberate and clean sound.
In addition to being the progenator, writer and arranger for The Love Language McLamb is also the "front man" meaning the live show is where the depth of his talent is on full display. Upon first listening to their album I was immediately drawn to McLamb's straight forward lyric's and hearing them live truly developed the degree of sincerity. He is not one for hiding much of the emotion (both good and bad) behind his songs while on stage. While delivering the heartpanger Sparxxxx he threw himself out there singing straight from whence its inspiration is sourced teathered to the present by a simple bass line and feirce jangley percussion. This unfiltered stage presense lends authenticity and cohesion to the groups overall presentation.
While McLamb's contribution to the success of TLL's sucess is undeniable, so to is the deep well of musical brilliance that brings McLamb's vision to life. Watching the group traverse the course of their album's repetoire while fit cozily on to KFN's smallish stage was a visual demonstration of seven people who are clearly very in tune with each other's role and musical ability. McLamb's brother pushes the edge of brash percussion and tight snares just the right amount so as to make his riffs on songs like Providence little modest gems. On Night Dog the keyboards and rhythm guitar did a nice little dance to a steady tambourine beat. They brought up a member of Headlights to add a squeez box touch to a song and it was pretty aparent the entire troupe was having as much fun putting on the show as we were having watching them. This shared joy peaked nicely with the rollicking and delicious Lalita to top off the set. As I savoured the last bits of their set hanging in the air it occurred to me that theirs is the kind of show you want to see outside on a humid summer evening with a cold beer and folks willing to cut loose a little. I do so hope they pass through town again soon otherwise I may have to make do with hosting a little listening party of my own.
Manteo -The Love Language Daytrotter session
*Image courtesy of Michael Triplett