WASHINGTON, October 26, 2012 —Immediately upon entering Backstage at the Black Cat last Sunday night, one noticed the “Sold Out” sign for Lord Huron’s show that evening. “Sold Out” is a relatively uncommon occurrence for the Black Cat, as the Backstage venue is usually reserved for smaller and newer acts who have yet to gain a large following or are regarded as cult or niche performers. Even when some of the more popular acts play there, it never feels too crowded. But on Sunday night, Backstage patrons, packed like sardines, encountered unaccustomed difficulty moving around once Lord Huron began his set.
Granted, the Black Cat also had a sold out show cranking away on its main stage upstairs, meaning that this double bill was likely one of the larger draws the venue has ever experienced. That said, though, it’s still somewhat surprising that Lord Huron contributed to this overabundance of people pouring in from 14th Street.
Lord Huron started out as a solo project of front man Ben Schneider, a Michigan native – hence the use of Huron – but now a resident of Los Angeles. After writing an initial three-song EP, Schneider found he needed a touring band. Eventually, that touring band evolved into the full fledged group now known collectively as Lord Huron. This transformative whirlwind all happened within the last two years.
Ultimately, that’s what makes Lord Huron’s ability to shoehorn its capacity audience into Black Cat’s backstage so amazing. At the time of Sunday’s show, Lord Huron had only released that previously mentioned early-2010, three song EP—Into the Sun—following it later that year with the full band release their appropriately named EP Mighty. That gave them a total of seven recorded songs under their musical belt—not a lot of songs to build a following. But apparently, they have one. Building on their momentum, their first full length Lonesome Dreams was to be released the Tuesday following their appearance here, but it was unfortunately unavailable to the Sunday night crowd here in DC.
The kind of reaction and turnout for Lord Huron speaks pretty highly of the band’s drive and ability to build a following, based as it is almost entirely on touring and playing at festivals like South by Southwest and Lollapalooza. Such things happened before, of course, but it’s always refreshing to see a band generate this kind of buzz through a combination of hard work and word of mouth PR.
After taking in Lord Huron’s set, it’s easy to see why that word of mouth has been as strong as it has been. Schneider may now reside and record in LA, but it’s obvious that his musical heart still lives up in Michigan. It’s said that a great deal of Lord Huron’s musical output is his response to Michigan’s nature-inspired call of the wild. Indeed, that large, Great Lakes-straddling state has a lot more to it than just decaying Detroit. So it’s logical that the inspiration springing from Lord Huron’s Michigan origins should so obviously influence the band’s sound. Even if they weren’t sampling various sounds originating from a lakeside location, it would be easy for any audience member to make this connection.
This, in turn, begins to explain how incredibly calm and settling Lord Huron’s sound is. At times, the mellow vibe the band gives off is almost jarring in the context of what most of us are used to hearing. It’s easy to get lost in the relaxing feel of these light hearted and rhythmic sounds despite the sea of people thronging Backstage. Nuanced Schneider’s vocals build upon this feeling with a low echo that almost has a hypnotic effect.
This is the kind of music people will rightfully sway to. The upbeat tempo rolls and loops in a way that makes Lord Huron’s songs seem to fold over on themselves continuously. It’s not movement music so much as it’s music that allows the audience to drift in the mood while taking in the band’s performance. If Lord Huron’s overall intention is to recreate the peaceful sense of bobbing gently with the overlapping waves of a far-distant Michigan lake, Sunday’s live appearance here would seem to be a quiet but resounding success.
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