January 23rd, 2008 | by Stephen Marc Beaudoin Music | Posted In: Columns

New York Rifles, The Lonely H, My Fellow Traveller at Ash Street, Jan. 16, 2008

     
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[NU CLASSICS] One measure of a band’s rockingness is the get-on-your-feet factor. And the Lonely H—an infectious teenage classic-rock outfit—has it in spades, if the raucous response from last week’s Ash Street crowd is any indication. Of course, it helps that the Port Angeles, Wash., band is unquestionably badass—how many groups do you know travel with their own light-up set? More importantly, though, the Lonely H delivers the goods.

The goods offered last Wednesday were clean-lined, superlatively played rock tunes that showed equal parts polish and promise, much like those on the Lonely H’s aptly named sophomore release, Hair. Each member of the band (none are over 18 years old) has great chops, and they slam through their taut songbook’s every shifting meter and slippy syncopation with hardly a hiccup.

The best of the quintet’s live songs (album opener “Just Don’t Know” among them) aren’t short on showmanship, either. Floppy-haired frontman Mark Fredson exhibits equally explosive/expressive vocal antics and stage moves (he’s got two of the latter: stalking the stage with a tambourine or standing stock-still). Add to that Johnny Whitman’s Geddy Lee-style prog bass and Ben Eyestone’s in-the-pocket drumming, all punctured by Eric Whitman’s wailing lead guitar, and these guys are impossibly impressive for their age. In fact, they’re literally too cool for school—each member’s taking a semester off from University of Washington to tour and record.

Portland’s My Fellow Traveller opened the night with an intriguing song list, veering from honky-tonkish Southern swagger to misty piano and plaintive cello on softer tunes. The intrigue came more from structure—the set unfolded, almost without pause, as a sort of song cycle with short fragments—than content. But MFT, despite being less straightforward than the night’s teenage heroes, has a secret weapon, and his name is Benjamin Alexander. Seductively screeching, “Heeeeey, here I come!” with wild-eyed abandon, Alexander won the crowd’s attention handily.

Headliners the New York Rifles, rather, phoned in a short set to close the night: long on raw volume, short on raw energy (not to mention unintelligibility—try making out even a single word of lead singer Scott Young’s shout-fest singing). “They sound like the end of the Strokes but look like they’ve all had strokes,” my show date said. Touché.

Photo: by Sam Winston, taken from the band's MySpace.

 
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