Hipsters, frat boys, and music nerds alike gathered this stormy Monday night at the Troubadour for an epic evening of music. KCRW presented Middle Brother and friends in a holiday benefit concert for Invisible Children (www.invisiblechildren.com). Middle Brother is the newly formed folk rock super group made up of John McCauley (Deer Tick), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit). While all was rain and gloom outside, the theater buzzed with warmth and excitement for the amazing line-up of artists and the promise of a truly special night of music.
The show began with a beautiful acoustic set from John McCauley. All that man needs is a guitar, a beer, and a story to tell. Blake Mills came next with a set that I only wish could have lasted longer. When Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith joined him onstage I could hear a collective gasp from the crowd, reminiscing about the days of Simon Dawes (the band that later became Dawes following Blake’s departure in 2007). We were then transported into a mist of folky psychrock thanks to Guards reverb/delay heavy vocals and smoke machines. Soon Mountain Man graced the stage with some much-appreciated femininity and flawless harmonies that could coax a butterfly out of her cocoon. And to top it off, Cass McCombs bestowed a surprisingly attentive audience with an understated set of indie gaze goodness.
Finally, Middle Brother took the stage for their 2nd ever show. From the moment the first note rang out you could feel something special, almost cosmic in the air. When these three tremendous songwriters join forces the result is effortless, honest, and charmingly rough around the edges. The music is reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, & Nash, or Big Star (but less clean cut) with both sweeping ballads and rowdy refrains. Lyrically they each had a story to tell of lost love, hopes for glory, and, of course, general debauchery. Onstage, their chemistry is endearing, all of them shining equally as they harmonized between John’s growl, Taylor’s tender strain and Matt’s weathered and wise vocals, brewing a recipe for raw perfection. The highlight of the evening was a song called “Theatre,” a ballad for the lonely songwriter that evolved and swelled into a climactic peak, Matt’s vocals ringing into the theater with a passion and soulfulness that hung in the air long after the song had ended. They rounded out their set with an encore performance of “Portland,” a very fitting Replacements Cover.
Clearly, the stars and planets were aligned this evening, saluting the bands with a lunar eclipse at the end of the night. This was absolutely one of my favorite shows in 2010, and I’ll be the first in line for Middle Brothers’ album when it comes out March 1st.