Photo of A Lot Like Birds by Henri Isaac
A Lot Like Birds, Household, Hearts Like Lions, and OWEL played in Portland on May 28th, and it was what may have been the most underrated spring tour lineup this year.
Florida band What Haunts You started the evening off as the ‘local’ opener. Their sound fit the bill perfectly as most of their songs were melodic hardcore, but I would’ve loved to have had a Portland local fill this spot. The turnout for this show was unexpectedly small, but it was Memorial Day weekend which likely played into that. What stuck with me most from their set was how gorgeous Travis Clark’s vocals were.
First up on the touring lineup was OWEL, the band that released my favorite album of 2016. Their stage setup quickly surpassed that of every other artist that night as they placed soft white lights around the stage which was reminiscent of the album cover for dear me. OWEL definitely stood out on this show, but their indie sound, their roaring crescendos, and their passion and focus were enough to captivate anyone in the room. I was especially mesmerized by the amount of focus that Jane Park put into her violin parts, and how smoothly she transitioned from violin to vocals/keys in seconds. This was the New Jersey band’s first time making the trek out to the West Coast, and their set left a lot of people surprised. They played a four song set with the magnitude of a headlining performance. After their set, someone who said they mainly go to metal shows came up to me and started talking about how deeply OWEL’s set touched them which further proves that their sound is extremely accessible and has the power to leave anyone jaw-dropped. This became especially true when vocalist/guitarist Jay Sakong used a violin bow to play guitar at one point towards the end of their set. This is all just the beginning for OWEL, and I highly recommend listening to 2016’s dear me (front to back) if you haven’t heard them yet.
I used to regularly give at least a quick listen to each band on a show I’d be going to, but now I love the element of being surprised by discovering great artists live. That’s exactly what happened with the next two bands, the first of which being Hearts Like Lions. Their indie-rock sound sometimes reminded me of All Get Out or Can’t Swim while other times their songs had a more pop-influenced bounce to them. Each member of the band was very high energy which always makes watching a band for the first time even more exciting. Their drums were unique from the start as drummer Nick Sturz tapped on a combination of the rims of the drums and the actual drums themselves which created an intricate rhythmic foundation for Hearts Like Lions’ music. As soon as they mentioned that they’ll be back in Portland in July I was sure I wanted to see them again. Their set also had me very eager to dive into their recent album, If I Ever Speak Again.
Household was the other band on the touring bill that I hadn’t heard yet, and I’ve never had a set hook me on an artist so quickly. Their stage presence was strong, but not in an overpowering way. They looked like a band straight out of the 90’s which added to my fast growing fascination during their set. Household played a mix of songs from Time Spent and from their recent split EP which has them experimenting with a different sound than on the 2015 LP. It was the perfect balance of melodic hardcore and rock live, but Time Spent is what keeps me coming back to them, now. The rhythms in the aggressive vocals make their sound addicting. If there’s one thing that every band on this show had in common, it’s that every single vocalist played a huge factor in why these bands are extremely memorable. Vocals are the element that each of these bands use to shape and transform their music to be something truly special.
Headlining this tour was A Lot Like Birds in support of their new album, DIVISI. The band played the new album front to back in hopes that many fans would hear it live in-full before they heard it recorded. Seeing as I reviewed the record when it was released, almost everything I heard them play was nothing new to me. On the other hand, I completely understand why they wanted fans to hear and see it live first.
Cory Lockwood’s vocals were stunning and emotionally enthralling. At the end of certain lines there was occasionally the hint of what could have been a scream, but as many already know, Lockwood took voice lessons and has learned how to sing to his full potential. What I didn’t know and what caught me by surprise as I am still fairly new to this band, was that bassist Matt Coate sings and harmonizes in the majority of A Lot Like Birds’ songs. Lockwood and Coate seemed to feed off one another’s energy throughout the night. It’s undoubtedly a bit intimidating to step on stage every night to perform an entirely new sounding record front to back and anticipate fans’ reactions, but at this point in the tour, the band’s confidence allowed them and their passion to shine.
Once they played through DIVISI, they stepped off stage for a breather as the small crowd chanted for more, knowing they’d get to hear A Lot Like Birds’ older and more chaotic songs. They played a three song encore that had fans moshing and yelling along. Some even shouted out song names they wanted to hear even though ALLB had no intention of straying from their planned set. It was a solid ending to an emotional performance.