By Spike Brendle
Like I have mentioned before, Sunday nights are less than desirable. Luckily for me, Miranda Lee Richards, The Shelters, and The Dandy Warhols stopped by Crescent Ballroom last night. The lounge was full of the VIP ticket holders, who were crowding around a few members of The Dandy Warhols, sitting at the bar. All of them noticeably excited, they had just enjoyed a private meet-and-greet and performance in the ballroom that was held prior to the show, behind closed doors. Once the doors opened, a few of them shuffled in to see Miranda Lee Richards who was opening the show.
Richards was scrunched at the front of the stage with another guitarist and a back-up singer, who also provided the percussion with a tambourine. I don’t think I have ever seen so much gear on stage at Crescent. Also, it seemed the audience had all found places sitting on the bleachers in the back of the room, making an awkward space between her and the crowd. Neither of these factors discouraged or took away from Richards’ presence, as she lulled the crowd with her sweet, folksy dream-like persona. After already impressed, she then picked up a harmonica to add to her guitar playing and forgiving voice. Before she performed her last song, she told the audience she will be releasing her new album on January 30th, which will be her first release since 2009. The one thing about her set that I was slightly disappointed in was after listening to her music, she did not have a piano to back her up. Once realizing that, she then mentioned she will be coming back on tour with a full band, so we have that to look forward to now!
Once The Shelters took the stage, the younger crowd made their way into the ballroom and filled the awkward space between the stage and the bleachers very nicely. “This is the last night of our tour with The Dandy Warhols, so we are going to get weird for you,” they advised between songs. Perhaps the bassist got a little too carried away with that promise, as his guitar strap snapped about a quarter of the way in, which he quickly improvised by playing the rest of the song in a power stance utilizing the drumset. Both guitarists switched off on lead and rhythm, while also sharing vocal duties, which adds a lot to the sound and the show. With a quick guitar switch from an Airline-looking Gretsch, to a funky shaped Vox guitar, they moved into “Fortune Teller,” the first song I had recognized off of their four-song EP (which is their only music available). Especially live, this track is so casually jam-like but still dancable, which the crowd was taking full advantage of. They then went straight into “Liar”, which is probably my favorite song off of their EP. There is something about this song that makes it so fresh; maybe it’s the catchy chorus or the lively guitar riffs, but watching this live brought it to a whole new level. The last song began with a thanks to The Dandy Warhols, and continued with the band and audience clapping to the beat of the drums while the bass guitar danced around the rhythm, hitting as many notes as possible (tastefully, I must add). Judging by their performance, you would never guess they were a fairly young band. The flawless execution of their songs and confidence on stage makes them seem like they’ve been doing it for decades. Congrats Shelters, you’ve shown us it’s still possible to have a homemade, non-cookie cutter rock band that can make their own style without blatantly ripping off other artists. (Yes, JET, I am talking about you)
To be honest, I had heard the name before, but if you were to ask me to identify any Dandy Warhols song, I would draw a blank. It wasn’t until I listened to their “hit” single, “Bohemian Like You” that I realized, oh… I have heard these guys a thousand times! Despite the first two acts having finished, there was still a plethora of gear left on stage. Keyboardist Zia McCabe had her own “keyboard corner” which looked like way too much fun to mess around on. I also must mention that drummer Brent DeBoer looked way too much like Hyde from That 70’s Show. The lights now were way more engaging with the music, sometimes to the point where I questioned why there were no warnings of epilepsy triggers. Aside from the borderline distracting lights, this was definitely one of the louder shows I have seen here at Crescent (and yes, once again, I forgot my earplugs). The crowd had a strange stillness to it - well everyone besides the tallest man there, who shot over everyone by at least a foot, standing in the VERY front center, dressed in a suit singing every word with one hand in the air. It was almost as if he was giving praise to the late 90’s god of psych rock.
At what I thought was halfway through their set, McCabe picked up a bass guitar and started the next song with a fuzz heavy riff that led the other members through the entirety of the whole thing. What I didn’t realize is that this was only about a quarter of the way through their 20-year history of making music together. (I did get a peek at their set list, which had to be at least 25 songs long.) No one here had any complaints about the length of the show (especially the suit guy) as they continued through their catalogue. They played “Bohemian Like You” fairly early in their set, which was probably appreciated by the die-hards in the audience. All in all, they were exactly what I expected, except a few notches higher because of their chemistry on stage and the reactions and attitude of the crowd. I don’t think there was one side crowd conversation held during their set; at least I didn’t see any. At the very end of the show the band thanked us for making Phoenix awesome, and DeBoer handed the tall guy his drumsticks. Not only was he the tallest mother-fucker in the club tonight, he was also the happiest!
When leaving the show, the members of The Shelters were standing at the exit, thanking everyone that came out, and also making sure no one went home without a copy of their EP. This really blew me away; I have never seen this before and it was a really awesome gesture on their part - although I would also want everyone to hear my recordings if they were co-produced by Tom Petty. They promised to come back as soon as their full length is released, which hopefully will be sooner than later!