Photo: Christaan Felber
Ever since I first heard Hospitality on the radio months ago, and most recently on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, I’ve become increasingly fond of their pop sound, especially with the distinct voice of Amber Papini. With that said, the fact that Here We Go Magic were headlining this show was an added bonus, since I haven’t seen them live before but heard they put on good show. I usually don’t get into the pop-rock sound too much, but I think my obsession with Beach House’s last few albums (Devotion and Teen Dream) has opened some doors in my mind.
As I was walking to the Urban Lounge, a couple minutes before ten p.m., I could already hear the artsy sound of local band L’anarchiste echoing from a block away. Inside Urban Lounge was sparsely littered with folks listening to their Bon Iver-esque tunes, which generally went well over five minutes long apiece. When I went outside for a smoke, I noticed that the sound of the Ms. Pac-Man video game was making louder sounds than those coming from the stage at times. Even though L’anarchiste’s music is not the kind that you can really groove or tap your foot to, the small audience was watching and admiring the musicianship of the band and the great soundscapes being created.
After L’arnachiste hauled their large amount of gear off the stage, Hospitality, the three-piece group from New York, took the stage and quickly provided a burst of new energy in the club, which was now half full, with their upbeat tunes. Right off the bat, the band ripped through two of their most popular songs, “The Birthday” and “Friend of Friends.” The band’s sound was tight and did not stray far from the versions on their self-titled debut album. One surprise to me, however, was the great bass playing of Brian Betancourt, as he delivered several small thunderous solos, which added a great touch. Although the band is labeled a three-piece, the band had an additional guitar player that helped add some depth to the group’s sound. For their first time in SLC, Hospitality gave a strong 45-minute set of poppy rock tunes, which were emphasized due to the stark contrast between their music and that of L’anarchiste.
Taking the stage near midnight, Here We Go Magic picked up where Hospitality left off. Although I’m not too familiar with HWGM’s first two albums, their latest album, A Different Ship, which came out earlier this May, and has a great mix of folk, pop and even some synth on tunes like “Make Up Your Mind.” Watching them perform, it soon became clear that HWGM have years of experience playing together, as they often extended the end of songs into a kind of jam session, which then blended seamlessly into the next song.
Towards the end of a song early on in their set, the guitar of the band’s front man, Luke Temple, appeared to crap-out, and he took a few minutes getting a replacement. In the meantime, the rest of the band continued to play, improvising until Temple got everything set up. Finally, Temple returned to front of the microphone out of breath, saying, “Jesus. I’m trying,” as the crowd applauded his effort not to bring a halt to the music. With a new guitar strapped on, Temple turned around to face the drum set, directed the band into a steady tempo and then dove right into another song.
Although the club was only about half full, the crowd was pretty enthusiastic for the entire set, swaying their bodies back and forth and nodding their heads up and down. The band played mostly new tunes off of A Different Ship, such as “How Do I Know,” but they also mixed in a few older songs such as “The Collector.”
When I first walked through the door earlier in the night, I had a lot of questions floating through my head, as I didn’t know what I was in for. But when the music came to an end three hours later, as Here We Go Magic ended their set and walked off the stage, every face I saw in the club, along with mine, had the same satisfied (possibly drunk) look on it.