The Hush Sound at U Street Music Hall

Chicago's the Hush Sound bring their piano driven pop to U Street Music Hall in DC. Photo: The Hush Sound

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 —A basement level venue like the U Street Music Hall proved to be the perfect place for the Hush Sound to perform their unique brand of swirling, piano-driven indie rock. In their recent appearance here, their quirky sense of humor and easy interaction with the audience drove them forward throughout the night.

When the Hush Sound is playing at their best, this fast paced rock outfit—whose sound is seasoned with the light touch of the piano as their centerpiece—seems like the Midwest’s answer to Ben Folds. The Hush Sound’s piano centric pop/rock music actually seems like a novelty at first, if for no other reason than they prominently feature a piano. But they also unveil a considerable musical depth during their set. 

It is a fun and entertaining night when the Hush Sound roll into town. Everything they play has an irreverent touch to it, and it becomes apparent they just want to have a good time and don’t care much for seriousness. Their recent appearance here marks a welcome return to the live performance circuit for this band from Illinois.

The band originally formed in 2004. Over the next four years, they released three albums in fairly quick succession. Then, in 2008, the band went on an indefinite hiatus. Less than a year ago, though the Hush Sound returned, recorded the EP “45,” and started touring again.

These days, this kind of quick paced piano based pop isn’t seen frequently, at least in the Hush Sound’s light hearted, up tempo style. So hearing them on stage again is rather refreshing.

The heart of the Hush Sound is duo of piano player Greta Salpeter and guitarist Bob Morris. The two of them share song-writing responsibilities for the band as well as lead vocal duties when the band is on stage. They have a tendency to trade off vocals from song to song – with Salpeter taking on a larger share – rather than have any interplay between them within a given song; so one or more band members take on backing vocals. Still, the contrast between the two creates a nice distinction and core for the band to build from.

This isn’t to say that when one of them is playing it’s clearly a Morris song or a Salpeter song.  Everything about the Hush Sound’s set is altogether cohesive, and they keep their up tempo energy going throughout the entire show. Even when they’re bringing audience members on stage or taking a poll on what the best Michael Keaton film is, the band never appears to lose momentum. All this fits into the good-hearted nature of their songs and the irreverence of their show in general.

The band holds the audience’s interest primarily because the Hush Sounds’ songwriting is noticeably strong in any scenario. The songs the Hush Sound played during their set here were totally infectious and never once seemed out of place. This is the kind of music that doesn’t just invite the crowd to dance or even encourage it. Instead, it sweetly informs everyone they have to dance.

The Hush Sound is the kind of band that’s not missed before it’s gone. But listening to them once again, it’s a wonder they ever left the music scene for their lengthy hiatus in the first place.  Their music is more refreshing than anything else that’s out there today, and you end up feeling totally optimistic after listening to them live.


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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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