Sun, April 26
Doors: 7:00 pm9:30 Club
Houndmouth - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
In the last four years, Houndmouth have learned what it means to be a band. On their second album, Little Neon Limelight, they wear that wisdom like a badge of honor.
Less than a half-decade ago in the small Indiana city of New Albany, four pals were crafting tunes on their own, with few ambitions of turning those songs into a spectacle. That all changed when these friends crossed paths, and joined forces. Matt Myers, Shane Cody, Katie Toupin, and Zak Appleby became the drums and keys, guitars and harmonies of Houndmouth, and those personal numbers became the irrepressible core of an outfit turned magnetic.
In 2012, the group issued a self-titled EP on Rough Trade Records, the legendary imprint that signed them after seeing a single gig. One of 2013’s most incandescent debuts, their From the Hills Below the City LP affirmed what label owner Geoff Travis had heard: the sounds of Americana, renewed by the youthful glow of songwriters, musicians and pals unafraid to both celebrate and desecrate them.
Others noticed, too. The Guardian noted that, with From the Hills, “reservations fade,” while Rolling Stone’s David Fricke lauded the “earthy melancholy with a rude garage-rock streak.” Treks with the Drive-by Truckers and the Alabama Shakes followed, plus performances at the Newport Folk Festival, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. In cramped clubs and big theaters alike, Houndmouth earned a reputation as a must-see act, their hooks, energy and charisma making them feel like a lifelong friend you’d just met.
That success, though, turned what had started as fun into something closer to work. Houndmouth learned that being full-time musicians required much more than the nine-to-five endeavors they had left behind in Indiana. But they grew into the role and grew from it. Experiences accumulated; perspectives expanded. Relationships stalled; others progressed.
“We’re not in party mode all the time anymore,” says Myers. “We’re refining how we write songs, writing about people we love, more important things than just nonsensical stuff.” If that was the charge, then Little Neon Limelight is an unapologetic success. These eleven songs sparkle, fade, and sparkle again, mixing innocence and experience, acceptance and aspiration, horror and hope.
Recorded by Dave Cobb in Nashville, Little Neon Limelight pairs the energy and nerves of raw first takes with the accents and moods of a more contemplative, thoughtful unit. Hearts are broken and friends are exiled, love grows cold and drugs do damage, leaders make mistakes and money turns tricks. On the acoustic “Gasoline,” one of the most poignant moments of Houndmouth’s catalog, Toupin barbs the confessions of a perennial party girl with the specter of mortality. “Maybe I’ll meet my maker on a bedroom floor,” she sings, her voice fighting against its own existential fade as bowed cello traces her words. Haunted by samples of the buoyant opener and single “Sedona” and the noisy filigree of a Moog, the beautifully downcast “For No One” stalks through personal blues with conviction. Its world-weariness has been incubated by the world it surveys.
But all of these feelings aren’t worn on Houndmouth’s collective sleeves: Despite the turmoil embedded within many of these songs, they are equal parts energetic proclamation, built with choruses that can’t be denied, harmonies that can’t be escaped and rhythms that can’t be resisted. With its carousel keyboards and start-and-stop drums, “Say I”” is a combination come-on and kiss-off that might make Keith Richards blush. For “15 Years,” Houndmouth conjures barroom bluster to voice the woes of a prisoner, backing the cries of his soul with howling organ and slashing guitar. When all the action drops into a shout-along, gospel-strong bridge, you might feel the urge to bust the fella out yourself. What’s the point of having the blues, Houndmouth seems to say, if you can’t have fun with them, too?
Nowhere is that balance of tragedy and triumph better than on the romp “My Cousin Greg,” a Band-style saga where each member takes a turn with a verse. Written about Myers’ actual cousin and former cover-band bandmate Greg, these four minutes present the title guy as a mischievous, enlightened and acerbic genius. He leaves Florida with his master’s degree in physics for a brainy job in Los Angeles, raising metaphysical hell and questions along the way. Greg thinks his cousin has it made, touring the country by van while playing the songs he’s written.
But Myers disagrees: “If you wanna live the good life/Well, you better stay away from the limelight,” the quartet sings as one in the chorus, repeating the mantra as though it were their only lifeline to sanity. For those long drives, it’s a reminder of the thrill and toil of what they now get to do. “For the first record, we were floating around after having been thrown into this,” explains Myers. “This time, we were able to write more about experiences than random stories, because that’s where we are in life. There had to be an attachment to what we recorded.”
For Little Neon Limelight, the charged, charming and preternaturally mature Houndmouth did exactly that.
- Grayson Haver Currin
Dylan LeBlanc - (Set time: 8:15 PM)
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, LeBlanc caught the music bug early. He was performing in clubs by the time he was fifteen years old.
Growing up, LeBlanc lived with his mother in Blanchard, LA; a small town in the northeast corner of Shreveport. Working full-time cleaning houses, LeBlanc’s mother raised Dylan and his two siblings. At ten, LeBlanc relocated to Muscle Shoals, AL so his father could pursue his career as a professional songwriter. In Muscle Shoals, LeBlanc acquired a unique musical education. He spent late nights watching musicians record at the studios where his father played on sessions for songs he wrote.
After the lead singer of Sons of Roswell resigned, LeBlanc joined the Muscle Shoals band and toured the southeastern US. A few years later, LeBlanc became a co-founder of Abraham. He made his first recordings with Abraham at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. After the dissolution of Abraham, LeBlanc began to work on his own material with a friend he met at FAME, Ben Tanner. That relationship continues to this day.
In early 2010, LeBlanc released his first album Paupers Field (Rough Trade). In support of the album, LeBlanc toured with and opened for acts such as Lucinda Williams, The Civil Wars, Laura Marling, and Calexico.
LeBlanc’s second album, Cast the Same Old Shadow (Rough Trade), was released in August 2012. Following its release, LeBlanc played with Bruce Springsteen, First Aid Kit, The Drive-By Truckers and the Alabama Shakes. The Guardian review of Cast the Same Old Shadow called its songs “as beautiful as they are bleak” and the album “eerie rather than unsettling”.
In 2015, LeBlanc signed to Single Lock Records, where he has been working with Tanner and John Paul White (The Civil Wars) on Cautionary Tale, his third studio album.
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001