I managed to find the time this last weekend to go check out The Walkmen and The Little Ones on tour this weekend at the House of Blues Pontiac Garage; which, unlike every HOB I’ve ever been to, manages to create some sort of feeling resembling that of an actual music venue even if their idea of a rundown old blues club happens to be a club that is actually a super clean, brand new club with dim lighting. At least it was intimate.
At first I thought The Little Ones would be the hardest band to review ever. The beginning of their set was completely unremarkable. I can’t recall any time that I have been more indifferent. They weren’t by any means bad but did that make them good? I was stumped. I think there were a couple of reasons for this. First, song selection. They started off with some of their slower songs, their much publicized “rule of feet” wasn’t exactly being implemented by my mind and this problem was addressed in the second half of their set when they charged up the tempo and cranked up the volume. (Seemed louder to me than the Fuck Buttons show i saw) Once they brought out their livelier songs their performance got way more interesting to watch as well. As of right now I’m not sure that they have the charisma/performance experience to really compel people to watch a few guys stand around, which is pretty much what goes on during slow songs. The second factor that hurt them a little was just general context. To me The Little Ones make some good road trip music. Windows down, sunny day, driving with a friend through a flat stretch of sandy or tree-y nowhere, road trip music. Its all about music adding to some experience not so much being the focal point of experience.
A few lines back i introduced the groundbreaking idea that slow songs result in a group of guys with instruments standing around. The walkmen have many such songs but here’s where a certain type of charisma comes in. I didn’t care so much. Hamilton Leithauser’s voice is suited for the kind of meandering and moody progress the songs make and he managed to bring a physicality to the slow songs whether in the tired way he leaned on the mic stand or the way his body reached upward during the vocal stretches by standing on his tip toes. If you want to see an classic illustration of performance stop thinking about Leithauser’s throat and take a look at his neck. Voice aside, his neck looked nuts. You could just look at footage of this show and tell that he’s throwing his whole into that performance, it looks like his trachea’s gonna make a break for it at any moment. The band just made everything really believable. There’s something about The Walkmen that makes me think of a modern guy sitting in a bar in New York and at the same time think about vintage America. There’s something very rundown yet classy about these guys.
Side notes. The backing trumpet players added quite a bit of atmosphere to some of the tracks. Like I will always say, a little brass produces gold almost every time.
I was taking pictures from the side of the stage and Leithauser seemed to be doing his best not to look towards me.
Matt Barrick was playing his snare with a maraca which I always think is cool.