Bahamas didn't formally introduce themselves until somewhere after the seventh song, the band's presence was felt by all from the first hit of the hi-hat. The Canadian group brought a drummer, a guitarist and two supporting side singers. I won't call them "back-ups" because they weren't really behind anyone and the term does injustice to the beauty presented by the female singers on every song. Guitarist and lead singer Afie Jurvanen sounded like what might come about if the Black Keys and M. Ward hung out and did an album together.
His songs of love lost were set to tender, soul-filled guitar and swelling angelic harmonies that encouraged a sway and a smile. Each track was accompanied by drums done in a style reminiscent of an Al Green record and driven by Jurvanen's ability to play rhythm guitar, lead and a bass line -- all at once. An instant ear-opener, "Lost in the Light" was presented in a smooth and simple manner and the two side singers became a gospel choir with heavenly hums.
Another stand-out, "Hockey Teeth," was written about "a really good-looking girl" that Jurvanen used to go with and lock lips with on a frequent basis. Although Bahamas' music was a different style than Milo Greene's, the band surpassed the requirements of a solid opener.
Despite never appearing in St. Louis and having only one album to its name, Milo Greene drew St. Louisians to the Firebird in healthy numbers and in even healthier spirit. And to be honest, prior to the Los Angelenos' opening song, I had never heard any of their songs before, but I left a fan. Their emotional intensity and obvious talent made it was to dig their sound. Sporadically throughout the show influences of Local Natives, Explosions in the Sky and bits of an '80s sound could be heard.
Last night Milo Greene was like a band of four José Oquendos, switching back and forth between every instrument on stage. For every song there was a different lead singer, different guitarist and a different bassist -- and at one point a banjo appeared. The band also introduced nearly every song with a 3-5 minute atmospheric wave of intense, echoed guitars, heavy percussion and a strong emotional connection created by the passion displayed on stage. Most songs were rich with delicate harmonies and heavy on backbeat which created that familiar "Graceland" sound that seems to be currently coming out of Los Angeles.
Even though the four guys and one gal focused on the task at hand they still had a blast. Friendly discussion amongst the musicians and crowd created a house show-like atmosphere. At one point they even announced that they had defeated the Firebird's previous Photo Hunt champion and replaced the title with the band's name.
The 12-song set featured originals from Milo Greene's self-titled debut album and a beautifully altered cover of Sufjan Stevens' "Chicago" and Wilco's "Shot in the Arm." From start to finish quality and passion filled the Firebird.
Milo Greene set list:
Don't You Give up on Me
What's the Matter
Son My Son
Chicago (Sufjan Stevens)
Take A Step
Shot in the Arm (Wilco)