We Love Music: The Hundred in the Hands @ Rock and Roll Hotel — 6/19/12

Photo courtesy of CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK

courtesy of CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK

Sometimes, it’s easy to look at the lineup of a band, listen to a few tunes, and figure out pretty much everything about them — what sort of music they play, who their influences are, and what sort of people listen to them.

Then there are bands that are tough to pigeonhole. Take The Hundred in the Hands for example. They played a pretty rocking show at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Tuesday, June 19. Listening to their albums, you get a strong dose of icy dreampop, lovely, textured, but generally a little on the slow side. The cool voice of Eleanore Everdell over her own synthesizer chills yet thrills on the albums as the distinguishing feature of the band.

But in concert, guitarist Jason Friedman is a force to be reckoned with. He’s not on stage to play dreamy low-key guitar riffs. (Okay, he is there to do that occasionally, and he does so exceptionally well.) But he really seems like he wants to rock out non-stop at every opportunity and when he does so, The Hundred in the Hands become a full-blown dance project.

As a casual listener coming into the band for the first time then, they appear as a bit of a mystery. The live show is exciting for its new wave attitude. While the first self-titled album rocks out a little bit, the band’s LPs largely are much more tempered. The new album — Red Night, which was released last week — is much more chill than even the first album. But in concert, the songs come alive in a way they do not on record. Dreampop typically distills into shoegaze (or post-shoegaze) with electronics these days. So I might expect that dreampop with a strong guitar would present itself as fuzzy modern gazing.

Not so with Friedman. He plays his guitar with clarity and purpose reserved for post-punk and new wave outfits. And so The Hundred in the Hands becomes a different proposition altogether when he takes to the stage and competes for attention with Everdell’s crisp synths and movie-actress good looks. The result is that you get a very different band live than you do on the recording, and this is very very interesting. They moved from new wave to shimmery disco to dreampop and even some very trancy numbers live and definitely became more energetic as the show progressed.

The drummer — Joe Dilworth, I believe — added to the energy of the show with roiling drum beats when required.

Sixty or so people came out for the show and stayed until the very end even though it ran at least a half hour late. Many of them then promptly cued up at the merch table and bought albums and t-shirts and enjoyed the opportunity to greet Everdell personally. (It would be fair to say that Everdell’s legs were a draw for the men in the audience, which actually was largely made up of women.) Judging from the dedication of the smaller-than-deserved crowd, The Hundred in the Hands is criminally underrated.

First opener vorhees came with The Hundred in the Hands from Brooklyn to play raw dreampop. She performed pleasant and powerful stuff that nonetheless seemed a bit cluttered. Her songs were very well composed but perhaps they would benefit from stripping them down a little live. To be fair, she played synth, guitar and set loops all at once as a one-woman act. Her guitar was surprisingly soaring at times and her sound might be called reminiscent a bit of Vangelis with a bit more electronic funk.

The second opener was local band Dance for the Dying, who were quite entertaining. The quartet demonstrated some versatility with guitarist Joshua Hunter and bass player Brad Cantor switching off from their primary instruments to different synthesizers from song to song. Vocalist M.C. Wolfe brings a big bluesy voice to the rock group and she plays the occasional keytar, which is pretty awesome. Her great clear voice and girl-next-door vibe carried the band through some fun songs like “Echo” and a bunch of new stuff, soon to be released on the band’s second EP.

Dance for the Dying play a free show at the Kennedy Center on Wednesday, June 27, at 6pm. They are definitely in my top five local bands after seeing them live last week, so I would encourage you to pop over and check them out for some fun, laidback synth-driven rock that might seem a bit on occasion like what you might get if a young Alannah Myles were to front a young Foreigner. Go check them out.

Mickey

Mickey reviews music shows. He loves a good new wave song, new or old — call it new wave, next wave, now wave. Mickey also enjoys guitar-driven punk and synth-wave new romanticism. The new wave lies in the vast space between. Follow him on Twitter, as he hops around town and talks about music.

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