It’s been a while since I have been on the concert scene photographing and frankly, I’ve missed it. No you don’t get a lot of sleep, nor benefits with a pension, or any swanky company car. But, for myself and many the opportunity to not only be witness to live music but to photograph and review is a gift and one you don’t always remember until you step away. So, in 2018 I made a decision to start pushing more into genres I am completely naive on or have my own preconceptions on. Music is for many things but one of them is to expand our perspectives and taste in what we enjoy.
The Oh Hellos were a band many had told me I should check out with my enjoying Iron and Wine, Dispatch, and other big jam band shows in the last few months. I had zero idea who they were prior to some pre-show listening and even less idea what sort of environment I would be in with the recently re-opened Varsity Theater in Dinkytown. Much to my pleasure both were great and I hope that 2018 brings me into many similar experiences as I take suggestions for shows to see. Yes, that means you’re welcome to throw at me your ideas and I will likely go, whether I know who the artist is or not. Moderately cliche and expected narrative on my experience aside, let’s get to the show.
Lowland Hum, oh where do we start. The way they describe themselves was hilarious and true to the night’s vibe, genuine. The duo met while making music, and “thought hey we like eachother let’s get married, so we did that” and years later they’re still at it. Acting as the night’s “salad” in their opening to The Oh Hellos and brilliantly summarized. “We make soft music, as loud as is physically possible…” which is hard to argue with nor is it inaccurate I would say?. But it was ideal. Varsity is low lit chandelier in mood and filled with a calm captivated crowd for this show, perfect for harmonized reflective tunes. Lowland Hum isn’t one to wow and blow you away, as they said they’re salad. But, you cannot help but watch the pair as they gaze into the crowd in song with a look that seems to say “come with us and our stories”. So you listen and travel with them. Lowland Hum is not salad. No they are not fireworks or a New York steak either. But they are very enjoyable and their onstage humor had me laughing much more than any normal concert I have seen in recent memory.
Following a little comedic relief and the warm welcome of Lowland Hum came the main act. A casual 7 piece band comprised of fiddle, guitars, drums, harmonicas, and heavy doses of dancing gives you The Oh Hellos. My most recent show before this evening was a similar vibe at the Entry with a much smaller crowd. So preparing for the impending energy after the more mellow Lowland Hums was not something that crossed my mind. Oops. To get things rolling the group led a session of dance education with moves such as “parking the car” or “oh hi!”
Besides the unexpected dance party it was hard to not be impressed by the fluidity that the band performs with. For having as many members as they have and despite seeing Dispatch with nearly as many, I remained mixed on whether it would be chaotic. It was far from. Brother-sister duo Tyler and Maggie Heath and crew are one of my new favorite live bands now. Humor and quirky stage presence were on point and hearing songs like Hello My Old Heart and other newer tracks from their Eurus album. Strangely one of my favorite songs from the Eurus album is, Eurus, Which was the first song on the night. Among the rest of the night’s song choices were a mix of old and new. Top choices of the night personally were Eurus, Passerine, and Like the Dawn.
I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t give praise to the Varsity Theater itself. The last show I saw there was Judah and the Lion for a fundraiser event. The venue though the same felt more energized and management has clearly made some great changes. Friendly staff all around and the night went smoothly from entrance to stage for me. So props to the Varsity! In summary my experience with the The Oh Hellos and Lowland Hum was great. I’m insanely glad I took the words of friends on a show to try on and am glad for it. Readers, send me more suggestions as you like!
Setlist: Eurus/Convocation of Fauns/On The Mountain Tall/Exeunt/Torches/Like The Dawn/The Valley/Hieroglyphs/Notos/This Will End/The Truth Is A Cave/Grow/New River/There Beneath/Passerine/Eat You Alive/O Sleeper/Soldier, Poet, King/Constellations/Valley