It’s not often that an opening band trumps the headliner. In fact, the headliner, by virtue of being the headliner, generally has carte blanche to a). show up after the opener(s) have finished their set*, b). mack on your hot girlfriend, conscience-free, and c). draw the biggest, loudest ban of devotees. Southwest natives, What Laura Says, may have played to a nearly-empty, girlfriend-less room, but the lack of bodies only underscored the band’s uninhibited stage presence.
With nary a mosh pit in sight, What Laura Says rocked their grungy hearts out, as though the tides of fandom tickled at their toes. It was incredibly endearing, based on showmanship alone; but factor in the band’s soulful harmonies and generally groovy bass lines and ask yourself: “Why was I sitting at home with a microwaveable dinner instead of being serenaded by a vocally-gifted quintet?” Why, indeed, Minneapolis.
It’s possible I am simply old and boring, but bands like the Annuals and The Most Serene Republic tend to sound interchangeable, even live. The most sincere compliment one can give a musician is to say “that sounded fresh and familiar.” What Laura Says doesn’t feel new in the same sense that weird, space-age electropop is dubbed “cutting edge.” Instead, the music combines the familiar in a way that may produce an “ooh” or “ah” but more often satisfies some earthy desire to be hugged. This particular embrace includes a bear’s worth of neo-soul, psyched-electric guitar, sprawling desert folk, sunny keys (and buoyant keyboardist), and pitch-perfect harmonization.
Bloom Cheek is a veritable catalogue of quirk. The strongest tracks manage to incorporate every previously listed influence (“On the Fence,” “Spoke”), while the others fill the spaces between. There are obvious comparisons to be made (you know, of the Fleet Foxes variety**), yet tracks like the all-instrumental “Grocery List” defy instincts to label the band “indie folk” or “indie whatever,” especially when their music is so flavored by multi-genre nuances.
Post show, I spoke with tour manager Tony Kitmitto, who is maybe the friendliest Arizonian in the state (excluding my Sedona relatives who will serve you a steak dinner if you ever visit). Tony filled me in on the band’s current state of mind: a lengthy tour with the Most Serene Republic and Annuals, the release of Bloom Cheek in June, and plenty of driving time to memorize Justin Bieber choreography.*** For those readers hoping to catch the Most Serene Republic/Annuals on the road, consider forsaking the TV dinner for an unfashionably early arrival. While you’re there pick up a free download card made from seed paper (!), let your hair down, and prepare to be hugged.
*Conversely, proper etiquette dictates an opener should never ever leave before the headliner plays. Those that do kind of seem like ungrateful chumps (even if the bands are on tour and the opener is tired, has seen the full show a dozen times, and just wants to get drunk in the backseat of the van. NO EXCEPTIONS).
**Somebody should add ‘Fleet Foxes’ to the Urban Dictionary with the following definition: adj., boy harmonies; allusion to Mountain folk despite hailing from Portland/Seattle/Brooklyn/Chicago/Minneapolis/insert relatively flat urban city.
***Kidding, of course. What Laura Says does not (officially) endorse Justin Bieber. SORRY, BIEBS (stop calling).