By Jesii Dee
I arrived to the cool breezy basement of Valley Bar around 7:45pm on the dot, to a small group of people scattered about while Longbird was mid-song. It looked to be a mix of older people at tables, and most other people not quite sure where they should be standing.
Musically, Longbird are a tight group which is no small feet when you've got seven people on stage with some not-so-classic instruments: I saw a banjo, trumpet, mandolin, accordion and clarinet at one point in addition to guitars, drums & bass. But I'm picky about vocals and they just weren't doing it for me, so I left to go find some wine.
After I easily acquired some wine (all day happy hour on Sunday!), I went back to give them another listen, and this time the vocalists had switched, much to my delight. I wondered if the clarinet was the new banjo as far as making your band sound more rustic while still trying to differentiate yourself from the fact that you're surrounded by suburbia. They wrapped up their set, being short on time according to the comments made, and I ventured back for more wine while they broke down the stage & the next band set up. It was also during this set that I wondered if painting "STAND HERE" in front of the stage may help bring people away from the sound booth zone toward the stage. (I've got paint, let's chat.)
(During this time, I resist the urge to say "Hello!" like a weird stranger to the male half of Little Hurricane as I pass him in the hall between the two halves of the bar.)
I learn that the second band is called Young Buffalo. One had a straw hat & I don't get it. They take forever to sound check the drums, then everything else. I lose interest in listening to them mumble into the mics and go back to the Rose Room where I find some friends/fellow writers here, playing Cards Against Humanity. This proved to be more entertaining to me than the Young Buffalo.
The only portion of the set I was able to catch was half a song. It wasn't bad, but I didn't know what they were saying at any point. It doesn't make much sense to me to take thirty minutes to sound check then throw a bucket of reverb on everything. You do you, Young Buffalo. The crowd seemed to be really enjoying the set, and at least they figured out where to stand.
(Side note: The bar was never too busy to get a water, but I do think it would benefit from self service water stations. I felt like I was getting the bartenders hopes up every time I wanted a refill.)
By 9:35pm, Little Hurricane started setting up. I move toward the front of the stage; the crowd isn't super dense, and I'm 99% sure as a short human that there really isn't a bad view of the stage in this place, and I like that.
The duo, with "CC" on drums and "Tone" on guitar, arrived on stage to cheers, and started with the rambunctious track "Trouble". For being only two people, they sure make a lot of great noise. They played a mix of songs from their previous records, and also played four new songs. They are true to their bluesy sounds, and Tone even mixed in some steel guitar on a few songs. About eight songs in, CC told a great little story behind the song "Sweet Pea", and I figured they'd be about to wrap things up. Luckily, I was so wrong! They weren't even halfway through their set.
The duo have clearly worked well together for a long time. They were very in-sync with each other during the songs, and I really appreciated the fact that they looked like they were having fun. CC was smiling most of the set, and Tone's between song banter was genuine and on point. Having mentioned that this was their first show back in the US in quite some time after a tour through Europe, he said "I had guacamole tonight; it was heaven."
Rounding out into the final five songs, they had some slightly cheesy rain sounds, but my guess it was supposed to portray hurricane sounds. That was the only moment I questioned what was happening on stage. Jumping into one of their better known tracks, "Crocodile Tears", the crowd literally started screaming. They left the stage after playing seventeen songs, with "Give 'em Hell" (one of their first tracks released) and thankfully only teased the crowd with the will-they-won't-they encore for about two minutes before coming back and playing three more songs, ending the night with the glorious mess of intensity that is "Home Wrecker."
Little Hurricane created an intimate setting, drawing in the attention and keeping it for their entire set. Talking to CC after, she mentioned that they hadn't planned on playing all of those songs, but they were having fun so they just kept going. It was a great time over all.
Pro: Little Hurricane stage presence and ambiance creation was on point, big round of applause for the sound team, and--holy shit--they played twenty songs. Con: Aggressive crowds make me nervous - yelling "nice tits" to the drummer was NOT a classy move, Phoenix.