After the Big E debacle, I didn’t have high hopes for the rest of the weekend. Saturday had me needing to be in two places at once when all I wanted was to stay in and sleep. Realizing that sometimes you have to just suck it up, I made my way to my friend Allison’s house. She had major birthday shenanigans planned, starting with a little pre-gaming at her place. The plan was pizza, drinks and then off for a little birthday booty shaking. Unfortunately, I had other places to be, so I couldn’t booze it up, I missed the pizza (buffalo frickin’ chicken. BOO!) and promised to meet them out later if it wasn’t too late.
As anyone who knows me can attest, I am madly.in.love with the Boston music scene. Some of my favorite artists sprouted from the Bean (see what I did there? Ha!) and have laid down major musical roots. When I heard that Gentlemen Hall was coming out to Western Mass, I was excited and a little surprised-most Bostonites don’t admit that this part of Mass exists. I was also STOKED. It’s nice when the music comes to me, which leads me to my second destination of the night-the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’d never been there before last night, even though I’ve lived in the Pioneer Valley my entire life. The Iron Horse definitely pulls major talent and I’d heard that the vibe was very laid back, but in a big city way. I was digging the idea, but I really had no clue what to expect…not from the venue and not from the band I was going to see, Gentlemen Hall. I mustache you a question….don’t you love their logo?
The Iron Horse often has 2 showtimes, and the shows usually have nothing to do with one another. There was a band at 7 and Gentlemen Hall was scheduled to go on at 10. The first thing I noticed was the lighting. ATROCIOUS! I really didn’t get any good shots for you guys, I think I need a better lens…haha! I arrived shortly after 9:30 and there was a good sized line about halfway down the block. A good sign for sure! While I waited for doors, I chatted with a woman and her daughters, who had come from Farmington, CT. Another positive sign, people out to support the band that aren’t Northampton locals. I was starting to feel hopeful! Doors happened shortly after and just before the sky opened up. It was POURING, which I’m sure affected the stragglers that usually mosey into a show like this.
According to the signs, the opening act was called June and the Bee. Something about that name told me that I was in for a folk music performance, which always makes me happy. I was correct! I have to admit, my information on this folk duo is very limited-we didn’t have a lot of time to talk and they don’t have a Facebook page for me to stalk. What I did learn is that the female half of the duo is named Emma June that her male counterpart, Eli, is her brother. From the sounds of things, they live on a farm (jealous!). Apparently the guys from Gentlemen Hall met them on the campus of UMASS when they were advertising for the show and booked them to open. Props for giving a new artist a chance! In our brief conversation, she mentioned that they’d never performed anywhere except their kitchen. You’d never know it and frankly, I think she shouldn’t even tell people that they’re not old hat. They took the stage and had the confidence of seasoned performers. I didn’t see any jitters at all. Emma June reminded me a bit of Zooey Deschanel-cute, quirky and energetic, with an unexpected throaty edge to her voice. They’re an acoustic duo, which I think is a wise choice. With experience will come the crowd interaction, but really? A stellar performance from the new kids. Kudos!
Before we talk about the show, let’s talk about the band. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Gentlemen Hall is made up of Jake, Gavin, Rory, Seth, Phil and Brad. The 6 met in college at Berklee and have been friends ever since. They never intended to make music together, it just sort of happened. Gavin had a gig booked and needed a band, so the other guys jumped on board. When they realized what a good time they had together, they decided to do it again…and so Gentlemen Hall was formed in 2008. The music is really a collaboration of all 6 members. They write together and 4 of them live together. Their music isn’t forced, it flows. They’ve got 2 EPs, “Give Us Roots, Give Us Wings”, which they released in 2010 and “When We All Disappear” in 2011. Incidentally, they were handing out FREE copies of “When We All Disappear” at the show last night.
OK, back to the show….The guys took the stage and got an immediate and positive response from the crowd. A cool point to note-they have a flute in their lineup. Yup, you heard me, a flute. They also make use of a synth, which adds some really cool depth to their music. At one point, I even got to shake a tambourine, which was super fun (thanks Seth!). The vocals were raw and feeling, but essentially flawless. I can’t say enough about the talent these 6 possess. Each one of them hold up their part of the sextet with ease. Their Facebook page describes them as synth pop, which I think is mostly accurate, but they definitely have a harder rock edge than your typical anything pop music. They played the majority of the songs from their newest EP, plus several others. I was really pleased with the length of their set. The crowd was loving them! The dancing happening had me laughing, but not because it was funny-it was joyful. These people appreciated the music being made for them and the band reciprocated by rocking harder.
I think what really impressed me was their commitment to their own music. Being their first time in Northampton, I’m sure it crossed their minds that a lot of folks might not be familiar with their music. They didn’t take the typical easy way out of that and play a lot of covers…they stayed true to themselves. That takes confidence, which they seem to have in spades. None of this is to say they’re in any way amateurs, in fact far from it. They’ve won multiple music awards and accolades, from MTV’s VMA for Boston’s Best Breakout Artist in 2009, to the Boston Phoenix Best New Local Act in 2010 and TWO Boston Music Awards in 2011, for Pop Rock Artist of the Year and Video of the Year. In 2011, they performed live at the Billboard Music Awards and have shared the stage with many of today’s popular acts.
As the set came to an end, the crowd was cheering for more. None of us were ready to let this show end. The guys came out and played a one song encore, their only cover of the night, of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”. It was bittersweet-it was getting late, but I wanted to keep dancing! They do have some shows line up in the upcoming months, with their next show being 10/7 in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium. You can see the rest of their tour dates HERE.
If you’d like your very own shiny FREE copy of their EP, you can download it HERE.
If you want to check out June and the Bee, they have a Soundcloud page: http://soundcloud.com/june-21