Theo Hilton, the leader of the ramshackle explosion of joyous noise that is Nana Grizol, cherishes the beauty of small things—gazing toward sunsets and starry skies, going for long drives, spending quiet moments with others. “I once saw a sunset so vivid and warm, that I swore it was perfect,” goes the quietly lilting “Cynicism”: “I once had a lover; I’m not sure if I’ll recover but I know it was worth it.” These two lines embody Nana Grizol all at once: the unforced sentimentality, the seeking of truth in beauty, the belief that everything, eventually, will find its way.
The words, though, would not be so affecting if not for the strength of the band that backs them. Comprised of former members of Elf Power, Neutral Milk Hotel and other mainstays of the Athens, GA music scene, Nana Grizol's sounds hurtle through furiously and gleefully strummed guitars, blaring horns, and beating drums. Songs ebb and swell, a perfect complement to the emotional rise of the lyrics.
I feel lucky to have seen Nana Grizol play at Shea a couple summers ago, on a hot June night. I remember walking across Meadow Street, heading up the stairs and settling in among the crowd. The band played with abandon: horns sounded, drums pounded, and the frenzied guitars and sweetness of the songs’ melodies suffused the room with warm energy. We danced, sang and were happy.
During a pause in their set, wanting fresh air, I stepped out onto the balcony and wound my way through dimly lit faces huddled over lit cigarettes. I looked out over the street and, taking in the view of the city above the warehouses, felt a surge of-- which emotion was it that seemed to pull me hard by the chest? Was it longing? Nostalgia? Nana Grizol understand exactly this indescribable feeling. When I listen, I know.
The band's third album (their first in seven years!) is out at the end of March--you owe it to yourself to catch them on their supporting tour, including a stop at Shea on March 28. Nana Grizol, we're glad you're back.
- Jeff Sadueste
"A friendship project that was born in the Catskill Mountains," Florist began in 2013 as the bedroom recording project of songwriter and Epoch Collective member Emily Sprague. Since then, it has grown into a collaboration between bandmates Rick Spataro, Jonnie Baker, and Felix Walworth (of Told Slant), all of whom contribute massively to the framework of Sprague’s brutally honest musical meditations on themes of isolation and intimacy through delicately warbled guitars and gently sweeping synths.
The scope of Florist’s performance at Shea this past January for the release of their debut full-length record The Birds Outside Sang is simultaneously as infinitesimal as "little things living, floating around my room in my eyes, the dust inside the light" and as massive as the cosmos itself, as Sprague sings in a characteristically soft-spoken, wistful voice, "I wish that I could rip the roof to see the stars."
Finding beauty even in the most mundane of moments, Sprague’s richly sensitive songwriting and confessional lyricism welcome us to embrace the poignancy of lonesomeness not as a call to retreatism, but instead as a glue of sorts that binds all things small and large together. While successfully posturing itself as a stirring folk-pop record rife with unapologetic vulnerability, it is built upon a kind of tenderness difficult to put into words somehow articulated perfectly by Sprague. I challenge anyone to go through their chilling, dreamy set without reaching for a tissue at least once.
- Philip Anastassiou
There's a reason almost all of the shows on Mitski's recent tour with Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som have sold out. Her energy onstage is magnetic, electric and fascinating to say the least. From her early tours to now headlining bigger stages, Mitski puts her all into her vulnerable and passionate music and fixes the audience with a powerful stare, seemingly invincible but utterly human at the same time.
Mitski recently released her album 'Puberty 2' on Dead Oceans, and in her newest live sets you can hear nearly all of those standout tracks such as 'My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars' along with songs from her breakout 2014 album Bury Me at Makeout Creek. Live, Mitski plays spare basslines while her lead guitarist Callan Dwan (who is also in Nashville psych-pop band Idle Bloom) shreds dirty and sludgy yet precise tones and drummer Casey Weissbuch (of Slanted and formerly Diarrhea Planet) provides minimal and quick drumbeats. Mitski could carry the show without them, such is her charisma and the strength of her voice, but her band adds the final layer of depth to her songs.
In this set from July 2015, Mitski says at one point, "I wrote all these songs, and now I'm playing them! It's a dream come true!" Mitski's frankness and honesty are part of what make her a captivating performer. Her songs on her records glow with life, but when performed live, they truly radiate. Take a listen to this essential set and catch Mitski on the road this summer - she is not to be missed.
A self-described “bi bilingual political dance sax punk party from Providence,” Downtown Boys came onto the scene in 2011 and haven’t stopped fighting the good fight since. Founders Victoria Ruiz and Joey DeFrancesco met while working at a hotel as both employees and labor organizers; they soon took their politics from the streets to the stage and have been producing some of the most socially-conscious music of the last decade, both as Downtown Boys and Malportado Kids.
Downtown Boys' music tackles issues of racism, queerphobia, classism, police violence, and more. They work to reclaim historically white, hypermasculine dominated spaces in punk with each explosive performance. What some might find alienating-- like Ruiz’s use of Spanish in “Haz Algo,” “Desde Arriba,” and “Monstro” as well as on stage--is exactly what makes the group accessible for traditionally overlooked audiences in punk. At the same, Ruiz and the band deliver powerfully blunt stump speeches in songs like “Slumlord Sal,” making sure their message can’t be overlooked or misinterpreted.
Even in the recording of their 2014 Shea set, Downtown Boys' infectious sax-driven energy comes through. It’s hard to listen to all ten tracks and not feel like you’re a part of a larger movement sprinting toward the revolution. Luckily, this is a revolution you can dance to.
- Ruby Mastrodimos
Ask anyone about Palm's live show and unanimously the response will be that there's nothing like it. Whether you've seen them two times or twenty times, after their set is done you're left trying to catch your breath and scrambling to figure out when you'll see them next.
Palm is as prolific as they are inventive; at any given show you're likely to hear cuts from their full length debut "Trading Basics" alongside brand new tracks they wrote two weeks ago. The most predictable thing about Palm is the top notch quality of every song - you can always count on that, but it's impossible to predict much else about them. Musically they're incredibly erratic, jumping from time signature to time signature and from idea to idea with mechanical precision. Lead guitarists + vocalists Eve and Kasra trade off sharp atonal guitar spasms, crafting complex dirges fit for a futuristic chrome landscape. Drummer Hugo and bassist Gerry are the steadfast glue to the music, locking down some tightly controlled and mesmerizing grooves but occasionally pulling the rug out from under things and devolving into a quick noise jam.
Seconds later the controls are tightened again and things return to a relative normalcy, although few people would describe Palm's music as "normal". At times watching them feels almost supernatural - the intense connection between each member is what allows the music to be so tight. Everyone's totally in sync with each other - Eve and Kasra spend more time communicating via glances and nods than they spend even looking at the audience. Palm is a well oiled machine running at peak efficiency, and you'd do well to catch them at a show as soon as possible to witness the magic they're creating.
- Connor Rush