Friday, 19 March 2010
Pittsburgh, PA, for all intents and purposes, is my hometown. I grew up 30 miles outside the city on the backwater side of the tracks, can't figure out which bridge takes me where, and use "y'all" instead of "yinz" (also: Go Pens!). That said, I must concede I ain't really as in touch with the local scene as I should be, which I now sorely regret due to my heretofore lack of even cursory knowledge of a band called Lohio (pronounced "Low-High-Oh").
I first heard the song "Modern Days" from their 2008 album History, the Destroyer on an internet radio station called soma.fm (great stuff, scope it out if you're at all into musical discovery). I really dug it. Airy, sunny, and catchy, with loping basslines that spread like hot butter. The lead singer, Greg Dutton, comes on with a light, earnest croon and heartfelt lyrics that garner a lot of Shins comparisons but remind me more of Mark Mulcahy at his most poignant.
As things are wont to go with a burned-out college student, the song totally slipped my mind for a month until I read an article in Penn State's newspaper regarding their upcoming performance on campus. I got psyched, because not only did I learn they're from Pittsburgh, but also that, holy shits, free performance by a band that isn't immediately terrible!
So the set was today and, on a gorgeous day like this was in central PA, with the sun shining through the floor-to-ceiling windows, a band like Lohio was the perfect complement. Despite the small and somewhat unenthusiastic audience of maybe 30 or 40 at peak, the band was having a good time (especially the bassist, Liz, who laughed through the last couple songs) and it beamed through in their music. Everything meshed; Greg's guitar shone, Liz's bass danced and rolled, Sven's skins coiled and struck at all the appropriate moments, and Alex's keys impressed, seemingly holding the rest of the band by marionette wires.
They played all their songs with a sure-footed sound you'd expect in a band that's been on the road and developing in a steady iteration for way longer; the mix of influences they bring to the table (90s alt-rock, folk, alt-country, everything good and decent about the American indie rock scene, and on and on) can get muddled and undercut by bands with a lesser grip on form; Lohio never lets songs like Old Orchard Beach or Grandfather's Chaise, the former a nifty heartfelt pop-rocker with a slick rhythm bounce and hooky chorus that reminded me instantly of Wilco's "Heavy Metal Drummer" and the latter a stroll through the (alt-)country with a creamy psych-rock center, slip into a monotonous wreck of noise both familiar and unwelcome. Everything is uniquely their own, but recalls all the best emotions of everything that came before.
I should also mention that "Waiting for the End of the Summertime" might be my new summer anthem.
They rock, they're nice people, and they craft music as effortlessly refreshing as the spring breeze that it makes me long for on a day like this. Why did I move away from Pittsburgh? I'm missing the indie scene already.
Listen and smile.
Read and buy!