As I sit here, poking and prodding at this pumpkin of melodic and hyper memories I am praying to the Fairy Gods of Rock and Roll journalism will turn this piece into the sharpest, sexiest, most radical summary of the sharp, sexy, and radical show I caught Wednesday night from Kaleo and opener Firekid. How do words accessorize the adrenaline that comes with the sweating drummer, the boom of the speaker, and the chanting crowd?
I have to return to square-one. Or rather, the gold-yellow square with red Times New Roman scripted in a capital letters spelling SOLD OUT across all the ticket sales I come across as I am doing my research. Seeing SOLD OUT next to this band on the rise summarized what first set off my passion for shows.
Going to a concert is an event all in itself. So, as I took two trains from Brooklyn to the Lower East Side, I wondered if the hustle and travel would be worth a look at this band. I resurfaced the streets of New York City from the underground tunnels in which I traveled and found myself at Bowery Ballroom. I maneuvered through the crowd of the basement bar, and made my way up the stairs that led to the stage room. The intimate, 575-guest venue seemed to fill quickly as I set up my camera lenses and grabbed a hold of the stage.The fact that there was no barrier between the crowd and the stage was a pleasant surprise. I set my camera down and waited for the crowd to fill in more. Roadies came and went. But within 15 minutes, Dillon Hodges of Firekid was tuning his guitar at the mic.
Firekid did not feel like an opening act. Hodges possess effortless charm and provokes a humbly personal and musical communication with the crowd. It felt like the audience could have been at tables, eating southern fare, tapping our feet to the music and mood. Firekid was playful and fun, with the perfect combination of jubilance and comfort. Tracks like "Getaway Car" were fast and perky, with a southern edge that doesn't sting like some contemporary country. At one point, Hodges brought out a Gameboy and sampled some Tetris themes over one of his acoustic/vocal/percussive songs. True artistry was in the works as Firekid warmed up the crowd. Muscles were loose goose with old souls and twenty-something vibes. Not even fifteen minutes passed before Kaleo hit the stage, and opened with "Way Down We Go."
The band appeared without the smoke and mirrors that a lot of other, modern day acts use. The quadrant of musicians took their natural place on stage without any bullshit and blew the crowd away. Kaleo shine a fresh light on the potentially fading genre of rock that I cannot help but want to stir up the genre's cauldorn. I feel confident in saying that Kaleo is re-establishing the roots of great rock. This four piece act is the most diverse act I have seen in the 2000s, and the intimate performance was the necessary cherry to top it off.
Musical purity, talent, and stage presence are three bullet-points that I use to determine the value of an act's performance on stage. Kaleo takes these three to a new level. Musical purity is an understatement. JJ Juilius Son's voice has a gripping, raspy undertones that pair with the fundamental, uncut instruments that rock and roll -- and the spectrum below -- rely on. Kaleo's frontman has a better voice live than any of the tracks or recordings I have seen so far. I was under the impression that tools often used to amplify or enhance a voice or a song are handicaps for Kaleo. This four-piece has passionate, soulful riffs that only compliment Son's outstanding voice. The drummer's sounds are sparsely recognizable in the grand scheme of Kaleo's identity. But on stage, the drummerand the three other instruments did not seem to rely on one another for cues or compromise at all. Rather, the four members of Kaleo seem to submit to the art of each individual song. In the midst of this noticeable dedication, the crowd not only seemed content with the sound but mesmerized by the moment that Kaleo was creating and the sounds that could come next.
Kaleo played more music than I was initially familiar with from my perusals on Spotify. The act offered us about an hour and a half of live music, and one song charmed us even in the band's native language: Icelandic. I would not have changed anything about this show. The pace, the commentary, and the setlist were agreeable and thrilling. The setlist seemed naturally executed, and the casual nature of band members provided a sense of security, even as guitars riffed harder than I have ever seen before. Yes, this show was SOLD OUT, and those words were sparks that reminded me of the fire a band could set to a fan's heart. But it was not the crowd, the tickets, the venue, or my glamourous camera lens that reset such nostalgic music and lyrics. Rather, it was the complementary combination of artists that took the stage with a beautifully rugged poise. It is that poise and sound that takes me back to the fading band t shirts and other SOLD OUT stories that I surely share with other music fans. These acts set the stage for other great performers, artists, and singer/songwriters, and seduce respectable crowds from all around the world.
Enjoy the rest of our photographs from the evening below and be sure to catch our exclusive sessions with the two bands that will be coming to Baeble in the weeks ahead.