WASHINGTON, January, 2, 2012 —Most rocks bands of any specific genre are more or less designed to play in front a standing crowd. The reasons for this usually stem from the inherent up-tempo nature of most rock music and the bands’ willingness to garner appreciation feedback via witnessing audience members in motion, at least to a certain extent. Bands ultimately want the crowd to get lost in the music, as it makes for a good show where things happen to be a bit freer flowing. This is the kind of band Bronze Radio Return is.
When they played at the Hamilton on a recent Thursday night, it was probably a different atmosphere than the ones they’re used to encountering or even one they ever thought they’d be playing in. This is because the Hamilton is a sit down establishment for live music. This works tremendously well for certain acts, mainly lighter, technically oriented rock acts or singer/songwriters duos, where audiences have a finely tuned appreciation on the craft and where the artists convey a relaxed feeling to their shows. In turn, this allows the audience to focus more intently on the important aspects of craft.
But Bronze Radio Return is a roots rock band hailing from Connecticut with a decidedly alt-country twang to their sound. Their style is distinctly loose and freewheeling, seasoned with elements of southern rock bravado during their typical stage appearance. So at first glance, it didn’t appear they’d fit in with the atmosphere the Hamilton provides. And there was some evidence Bronze Radio Return felt the same vibes to a certain extent, as they attempted to get audience members into the standing area near the stage. Unfortunately, the design of this space doesn’t always lend itself to that kind of activity.
The reason a venue like the Hamilton might put a band like Bronze Radio Return on edge is that it has the potential to make the band members somewhat self-conscious. Now, rock bands have a tendency to be self-conscious anyway. But the best of them detach themselves from that way of thinking when they’re up on stage. Bronze Radio Return in particular is the kind of band who would rather play loose than have an audience pick up every subtlety in their performance. Venues where they audience is primarily seated tend to have that effect on straight ahead rock bands.
Still, bands in general are more malleable than concert venues. So it’s up to the band to make the atmosphere work for them and that’s essentially what Bronze Radio Return did during their recent performance here—possibly what the Hamilton had in mind. That’s not to say the band mixed up their style to fit the venue so much as they used the heightened awareness and the edge that came with it to their distinct advantage.
For most of their set, they put out their normal, up-tempo, roots rock sound, the kind of sound that would generally play best in dive bar. But the members of Bronze Radio Return made it fit in with the environment, only occasionally calling attention to themselves in this regard. It helped that their individual songs held up under closer inspection and that their flexible style of music is functional rather than merely for show. Front man Chris Henderson also adapted to the setting at several points during this appearance by letting the rest of the band off (aside from drummer Rob Griffith) to play some slower, blues oriented songs.
The Hamilton might not be the ideal venue for what Bronze Radio Return is at their core. But it remains a perfect place for a band like this to show their versatility. At their musical heart, Bronze Radio Return may be an off the cuff roots rock band. But in their appearance here, they showed they can be something considerably more than that.
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