He's My Brother, She's My Sister
- Article by: Jamie McCormick; Photos by Jamie McCormick
- Posted: 08/01/2011
Hump day can be an interminable stretch of hours with an accompanying draught of fun as you begin your descent toward the weekend. But if you had spent this past hump day at The Basement, you would have picked up enough momentum to arrive safely and psyched at Saturday morning without even noticing the two days in between.
Bounding onto the small stage with enormous smiles and Aussie accents, Sons of Summer started off the evening's festivities. Serenading a near-capacity crowd – there was barely even standing room – they sang of home and life on the road with the energy of youngsters and the nostalgia of old souls.
Tightly knit harmonies met bouncy rhythms at the juncture of poignant writing and creative embellishments. The immensely movable music turned a muggy night even hotter, with bodies crammed almost on top of each other and dancing around. Beneath the beat, gritty, Jakob Dylan-esque vocals mingled with the more dulcet tones of the backups for a full-spectrum lyrical folk fest.
Sons of Summer, who are currently recording their first album, discard the faux pop character of most summer music while holding fiercely to its fun and excitement. It is definitely music for blaring with the top down.
As the band walked off stage, the cheering crowd refused to sit, demanding the rare small venue encore, to the surprise of both the sound guy and the band. They quickly worked out a plan, though, and replayed a song from earlier in their set. Apparently, they had had a problem with one of the guitars and were grateful for the chance to rectify the problem, leaving their best out on the floor.
By the time bluesy crooner Trista Mabry took the stage, the crowd had cleared out a bit. But Mabry, undaunted, began her set simply, with just a guitar and a conga drum. Her voice lives somewhere between sweet and soulful, visiting both ends of the spectrum occasionally, and her guitar work is nuanced and interesting.
Despite her studded stilettos and vocal abilities, though, Mabry's stage show proved lackluster for the most part. Powerful in parts, she was able to draw a few people in from the patio for a song or two. But the overall show was short on expression – a sad situation for a quite talented singer.
The energy came flooding back, along with the crowd, for LA group He's My Brother, She's My Sister – as the sound guy put it, “It's a long name, but you'll want to remember it.” With soul-lifting swing and swagger, HMBSMS threw a raging dance party that was balm to a body only halfway through the workweek.
This kooky band from the Cali coast has a knack for finding the strangest way to do something and then making it work. The beat, driven by Lauren Brown, comes from tap dancing, a consistently brilliant piece of nuttiness that adds both intricacy and uniqueness. Brown's feet never stop moving, and her face keeps up the pace, displaying the entire gamut of human emotion in short order. Watching her play and dance is delightful.
The originality of a band that has a tap dancer as a percussionist will necessarily be pervasive, and HMBSMS let it infiltrate every aspect of their show, from top hats to neon fingernails to barefoot vocalists and slide guitars. They look and sound like a throwback folk group from the future – modern energy and music wrapped in the nostalgia of an era not yet arrived. With a Vaudeville stage show and an avant-garde sound, they are the best of both worlds.
Rob and Rachel Kolar guide the show, playing games of vocal tag and melding their voices together in the harmonies only siblings can pull off. Resonant and confident, they lead their merry band of misfits on a musical romp with a surfeit of panache and plenty of tambourine.
Pop but not plastic, folksy but not out of date, He's My Brother, She's My Sister are artisan bread from a new kind of grain, baked in the California sun and distributed to feed the masses hungry for a taste of something fresh and new, wholesome and satisfying. Eat up – you'll burn off the calories dancing.
To see more of Jamie's photography, or to inquire about booking, visit www.seriesofstills.com
"How'm I Gonna Get Back Home Tonight" - He's My Brother She's My Sister