Be careful what you wish for, Chris Chu

Morning Benders + Holiday Shores + The Luyas – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 24

Oh hi. Fancy that. You’re here. With a modest introduction and an amiable request to have the lights turned down low, The Luyas singer Jessie Stein immediately took control of the stage and charmed the audience. Apparently, the Montreal group was eager to try out a new toy – bare light bulbs rigged up to strips  that were outfitted to turn on and off according to the drum beat. But the light show was short-lived and only made an appearance at the very beginning and end of their set. I’m sorry if you’re epileptic. We just have this new thing, said Jessie after just one song (“Canary”).

The Luyas (Photo Danielle St-Amor and Stacey Ho)

Speaking of strange, new things, get a load of Jessie’s main instrument:

the crazy hybrid instrument, "Darth Vader"

Yes, there are 12 strings there, and yes, there is a screwdriver under those strings that seems to act like a capo. It looked like a made-up instrument, and apparently it was. According to the Blogothèque site, the ‘magic guitar’ was made by Dutch instrument maker Yuri Landman. It fit Jessie’s whimsical, child-like personality well.

But Jessie is not the only thing The Luyas have going for them. I can honestly say that each of the four members were quite skilled. The French Horn, played by Pietro, was a nice touch; Matthieu was great on the organ, and Steffy… man. That’s what a drummer should be. He didn’t find it necessary to mercilessly beat his kit. Far from it. He knew when to pull out of a song altogether and when to add the slightest amount of percussion to allow the other instruments to be in the spotlight. Guest appearances by the xylophone were also delightful.

The Luyas wrap up their 3-show tour of New York tonight at Glasslands, and I think it would be in your best interest to be there. For more on The Luyas, once again check out their sweet Take-Away show.

Next up was Florida group Holiday Shores. Due to “last-minute situational things,” two members of Twin Sister  joined them on stage. (Perhaps the other two members were over at Bruar Falls setting up for their later show…?) Holiday Shores makes fun surfy-pop music. Take a listen to the infectious  “Phones Don’t Feud.”

Despite the fact that it wasn’t the normal spread of people on stage, Holiday Shores had great energy. They also kept themselves busy. The guitar player would walk up to a free-standing symbol and begin to play it, with the guitar still around his neck, and lead singer Nathan Pemberton also alternated back and forth between guitar and keyboard, often within the same song.

Holiday Shores

Even with a four-song warning, the group left the stage rather abruptly, but I suppose that had other things to attend to over on Grand Street.

Then there were the Morning Benders. I suppose their extensive touring with the likes of indie heavyweights like Grizzly Bear, Broken Bells, Death Cab for Cutie, Ra Ra Riot, Yo La Tengo, Au Revoir Simone, MGMT, White Rabbits, and Yeasayer paid off. (That’s a crazy-impressive résumé!) All three of their New York shows were sold out this week. (It will be worth your time and effort to bum a ticket from somebody to see them on Wednesday at the Mercury Lounge. They’re about to leave town again.)

Morning Benders (Photo Brooke Sheridan)

The Morning Benders set was celebratory and once again, energy-packed. They expressed their happiness to be back in New York multiple times. It’s not the same other places, admitted Morning Benders singer Chris Chu. The group showcased a number of songs from their recently released sophomore album, Big Echo, in addition to playing a few older jams and even a brand new song called “Go Grab a Stranger.” (1)

As if following a dress code, the four members of The Morning Benders each wore wrinkled, light-colored button-up shirts. These ruffled, but well-dressed fellows were certainly out to charm, and they effortlessly worked the (mostly-female) crowd. The Morning Benders sing about things like growing up too fast, friendship, and love – all with a pitch-perfect harmony and just enough rock and reverb to appeal to the guys, too.

Their set was relatively short, but their finale was certainly memorable and well-executed.

Feel the magic. Check out this fantastic video for “Excuses” from a Rough Trade shoot.

Much like in the video, the band elicited help from the audience to help sing the harmony parts on “Excuses” for their grand finale. Soon into the song, Chris stepped off the stage and into the ecstatic audience, where he led a sing-along from the all-to-eager fans. (2) It was impossible not to smile. It was one of those finales that just leaves you feeling good about life. It was a beautiful moment and a worthy conclusion to a fantastic evening of music.

After climbing back on the stage to say goodbye, Chris exited not by way of the staircase to head backstage, but by simply hopping off the front of the stage and walking back into the audience, where he was greeted with hugs and high fives like a sports star after a big game.

(1) A funny and surprisingly prophetic title in light of the events that would later unfold.

(2) He totally got pinched in the ass at one point, but didn’t seem to mind.


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"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."

- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being


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