I was given the opportunity to see Hooray for Earth perform live last Wednesday and, having listened-to and enjoyed their 2011 LP, True Loves, made plans to see them play at Schubas Tavern. I had never been to Schubas before, but I can see why I’ve heard only good things about the venue: You walk through the bar, past the Harmony Grill, and into the main stage area which was occupied by a small crowd; a cozy place with paneled floors, jacket hooks on the walls, and a long bench to the right of the stage. I asked a group of three guys standing around who they were there to see that night. “Bear in Heaven” they replied. I admitted to never hearing their sound, and the trio told me that it was indeed something to behold.
To be honest, I must say that I despised the first two bands that night. The first group, The Drum, was a duo consisting of a tall, fat man wearing a stupid looking denim vest (who did this annoying move every time he pressed a single button, like it was a delicate key on a glockenspiel, shooting his hand up after each press as if the motion somehow made the electric signal resonate better), and a small, greasy looking man with oversized glasses wearing a knitted sweater; their performance was merely an act of switching places to trigger different sounds which I found to be displeasing and slightly painful.
The next act was similar, however more upbeat, as if the former pair had changed into the skins of 20-year-olds who were more interested in ‘making beats’ instead of music. To describe the sound of Supreme Cuts, one must imagine being thrust into the cavernous sphincter of top-40 snap-hop hooks and having your ears smashed numb by huge low-frequency bombs, while enduring overused song samples like that stupid airhorn that everyone uses these days… you know, the one that sounds like it was taken from the Ecto-1 in Ghostbusters (I laughed when another member of the audience mimicked this sound as it was being tested during the sound check). As a trained percussionist, it disturbed me to see such poorly placed rhythms being hammered-out on digital pads by two boys who couldn’t even hold a pair of sticks correctly.
You may imagine the relief, rather, the feeling of having been rewarded for my heroic patience that overcame me when Hooray for Earth took the stage and opened with their new single ‘Never/Figure’. To say the least, I was impressed with how the four-man band managed to replicate their studio sound so well on stage. Behind each song was the kind of power that turns a room full of people into a single body, nodding and grooving at the will of the artists. I almost didn’t expect to see live drums that night, and I can’t begin to tell you how much of a difference that made- not to mention, this guy was good: He was rockin’ that tambourine on his hi-hat like I never could. I noticed at one point that he even had a trigger on some of his heads that produced a really cool delay effect during some of the songs.
Whenever I go to a show there’s always that sneaking concern that the singer won’t be able to live up to the expectations built up from many listens of their album, and when showtime comes around it’s usually the first thing I notice, but I’m happy to say that Noel Heroux did not at all disappoint that evening. Many times throughout the show I was left wondering how he used the pedal board at his feet to manipulate his voice, turning it into a different instrument altogether and creating a completely new atmosphere in the music. And speaking of vocals, I’ve looked everywhere and to no avail for the name of the woman on stage playing vocoder and samples, whose voice complimented Noel’s so well and, along with the bass player, gave the mix a well-rounded quality.
That night, Hooray for Earth mostly played selections from True Loves with the exception of a few tracks that I hadn’t heard before. It was an intimate performance: no spectacular light show, no distracting graphics, just the band and their music. Every now and then, Heroux would speak to the audience, offering kind words and even letting us know that he would play in tune for us as he fiddled with his guitar before the next song.
The set felt too short by the time they closed with my personal favorite, ‘No Love’ which was rendered even more spectacular by an unfamiliar, yet very interesting guitar solo. The band proceeded to tear down, and I asked them for a picture. Happily, they obliged and allowed me to take a couple of shots in front of the merch stand. Feeling satisfied and tired, I departed for the evening.
*Previously Published on http://www.violentsuccess.com*