Live Review: I Was Totally Destroying It, Alright Alright at hi-dive
I Was Totally Destroying It, Alright Alright
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Better Than: You might expect from a mid-week indie rock show.
I missed Hunter Dragon and Fridge Magnet, because, the hi-dive, as it turns out, sometimes, sensibly, starts 21+ shows before 10 p.m. on a weeknight —something many people have been suggesting to venues for years. I did make it in time to catch Alright Alright.
It probably doesn’t mean much to anyone that China and Seth Kent are part of the Cinematic Underground collective, but it was interesting to get to witness them launching their own music together as Alright Alright. Their songs were soul-edged indie rock, often bordering on minimalist folk. China Kent sang with a strong, slightly husky voice, which was entirely appropriate when they covered Nancy Griffith’s “Gulf Coast Highway.” I can’t say I was overly impressed with the music; it seemed a bit too workmanlike for my taste. But the band performed like it was having fun and really loving the songs. The act’s drummer had a keen grasp of texture and dynamics and really added another dimension, which helped give the songs character. None of the performers made a virtue out of a lack of ability. At the same time, they refrained from a gaudy show of musicianship. Ultimately, Alright Alright was likeable because of its good stage presence and a sense of humor.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from I Was Totally Destroying It. Outside the hi-dive, a friend asked me what the outfit was like. How do you sum up a great pop band with more sonic ambition than most? The act exceeded whatever expectations I had – and they must’ve been high enough, because what I had heard reminded me of one of the best pop bands of the earlier part of this decade, the Anniversary. I expect pop bands to be catchy and pleasant to the ears and Destroying It didn’t disappoint. But the group also played with an arresting power and force of passion. Chapel Hill, North Carolina has been responsible for some of the better, more ambitious pop music of the last three decades, and I Was Totally Destroying It is well within that grand tradition of a scene that produced Let’s Active, Superchunk, Polvo and the Archers of Loaf.
For this show, the band played mostly newer material that will be recorded for its next album—which promises to be a barn burner. The new songs were even better than Destroying It’s eminently worthy earlier material. John Booker sang melodically and harmonized well with Rachel Hirsh, herself a commanding lead vocalist. One of the more somber tunes reminded me of “Last Night” by Lush in its pacing and mood, with layers of guitar that brought a depth and shining atmospheres to the overall sound. You expect music like this to lift your spirits, but I Was Totally Destroying It also played with an unexpected intensity that elevated it above most of its peers.
-- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: Having already researched IWTDI for an article, I already knew they would be excellent but not the degree to which they would be so.
Random Detail: Alright Alright’s drummer had an Obama sticker on the face of his kick.
By the Way: Rachel Hirsh said everyone in Denver was so foxy she didn’t know how we could stand it.
This is the third of thirty-five consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)