Honor by August at the 9:30 Club
Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional...
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2013 —Honor by August’s recent show at the 9:30 Club wasn’t merely to support their latest album, Moments to Progress. It was, in fact, the official release party for that album.
Release parties take on a different atmosphere than you get in your normal, garden variety show. Such an event puts the band on display in a different way than if they were simply performing at individual stops on a standard tour. Instead, a release party is meant to by the culminating act validating the time and effort involved in putting together a band’s current musical creations, as well as an attempt convince the audience that these new songs fit within their normal, accepted musical parameters.
The anticipation was heightened here because Honor by August wasn’t only playing before a random collection of people in any old town. Instead, they were performing before their fans, friends, and neighbors in the city they call home. The members of the band are indeed DC natives, and the 9:30 Club is essentially where they made their initial mark years ago. So there’s a real importance to unveiling their third full-length album on their home turf.
If there were ever a place and time where this band would want to put a definitive stamp on their sound and on how their latest album defines it, this was the place and time to do it. It’s these kinds of expectations that make for a memorable show. Otherwise, we’d just be hearing any old band playing on any old night.
The main reason why Honor by August seemed to play better than ever this time around was that their album release party, as all such parties do, raised both audience expectations as well as the band’s eagerness to fulfill them. It’s hard, sometimes, to tell whether a band truly feels or believes in what they’re playing or if their songs and their sound are distinctive or merely designed for mass appeal. Admittedly, that’s a cynical approach to pack when you’re attending any performance, but it’s an attitude Honor by August will have to deal as they progress.
Honor by August is a band that defies any specific genre label. This doesn’t mean they mix a bunch styles to the point where it’s impossible to tell exactly where they fit in. No, Honor by August isn’t that kind of band. Instead, they’re essentially a mass appeal pop/rock band, most comfortable playing either generic rock music or excellent straight up guitar driven rock. The performance moment all depends on how well their songs resonate with the audience, how tight the set is, and whether they can keep a solid pace throughout without faltering. It’s a line Honor by August will constantly have to straddle as they move ahead from their current release.
At this point in their history, they are successful at this, however, and they showed some of the best a pop/rock band has to offer in their 9:30 Club party, mainly because they continue to stick to what they do best. Case in point: The songs from Moments to Progress create a large, audience friendly, guitar-driven sound, built around simple but memorable hooks and Michael Pearsall vocals that hold steady with a distinctive, emotive sting. Theirs is a polished sound, wrapped into a quick tempo set without any obvious rough edges.
Honor by August isn’t attempting the gritty, dark or edgy mystique. Instead, they are what they are, a bright and uplifting pop/rock band. Their set isn’t complicated, and each song shares with the next a basic simplicity, but then that’s where their solid appeal lies. It’s easier to connect with an audience when they know they can expect something good, real, and lacking in pretension. That’s exactly what Honor by August provides.
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