With the Jameses
August 13, 2010
The Vagabond, Miami
Better Than: Having to schlep all the way to Lake Worth for a show. Seriously, how often do Miami kids do that?
I'll start this review with the following disclaimer: I've never been to a Guy Harvey or The Jameses show. No, seriously. I've always wanted to, but never racked up the nerve to drive an hour and a half up north. Something about commuting more than half an hour has just never appealed to me for some reason, and I know I'm not the only Miami kid with this mentality. So when I heard that two great Lake Worth bands were commuting down south, I was a little more than stoked.
I arrived a little after 10:30 at the Vagabond, and noticed a different vibe was there. Sure, there were the usual hipsters, underage girls, and laidback people who just want to dance, drink, and have a little fun, but there was also a different energy in the air; Dade and Broward County worlds were about to collide. You can catch the County Grind's Broward take on the show, by our very own esteemed Reed Fischer, here.
Shows for local Miami bands with a decent following are usually more than packed, so I was a bit surprised to notice the roominess at the venue. It was far from empty, but it wasn't packed up like a can of sardines, either, which made it great for dancing, and sweating indoors was next to impossible. Sweet. But still, a lot of Broward natives trekked down to catch a glimpse of what these bands sound like down south.
The Jameses took to the stage around 12, and jumped right into their set with their synth-heavy, dream-infusing "Fifth Dimension." I felt like some head swaying was in order, and I wasn't the only one. Guitarist Jesse Bryan was intense, dancing and shaking around while he played, and I instantly got why they didn't really chat with the crowd too much during their set: This show felt like a full-on jam session, with the perk of experienced performers who knew exactly what they were doing.
A few songs in, the Jameses started to sound a bit like a modern take on the B-52s, with vague "Rock Lobster" undertones. The crowd went from looking like a high school dance divided by two sides (in this case, the front and the back) pre-show, to one big blob. The Dade/Broward lines were blurred, as show goers head bobbed in unison. Lead vocalist Dan James McHugh mouthed out his own sound effects each song, which was a happy surprise as they were so well pronounced that they sounded like they came from a machine.
The band brought someone on stage mid-set -- an audience member, but obviously a friend -- to take on the tambourine, and he and Jesse started a battle of sorts. But really, who can compete with a man who can power synths with the same energy as he probably would if he were in a fight-to-the-death Guitar Hero power struggle?
A short while later Guy Harvey took to the stage. And before you even think it, no, not the marine wildlife artist. The four-piece's soft, beachy surf sound with raring-to-go guitar riffs were perfectly juxtaposed by the subtle bass. In certain songs, it was hauntingly reminiscent of Peter Hook's trademark high bass lines -- if he were living in South Florida and catching a few rays, that is.
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One thing that wasn't subtle though: Bassist Mike Nadolna just wouldn't face the crowd, literally. His back was to the audience the entire time, and though I'm not sure if this is standard practice for their shows, I found it a bit distracting, and almost wanted to nudge him to turn around. Were they all just facing each other, entranced by the nostalgia-inducing music they were putting out there? I sure hope so.
The Jameses were front and center for Guy Harvey's performance, and Jesse in particular danced with just as much energy as he did when he played. You don't really see such hyped-up energy of each band watching the other play very often in Miami, and such loyalty from fans commuting cross County lines just to catch a local show added to the "I really wanna be here" ambiance. It was obvious whoever was in that room was there to catch some good music, and they weren't just spillover.
Personal Bias: This was my first time seeing both the Jameses and Guy Harvey live.
Random Detail: Lead vocalist of the Jameses, Dan, was totally wearing a Lakers/Bulls
T-shirt in Miami territory, and didn't get hassled or beat up; take note, Cleveland!
By the Way: Guy Harvey officially released their new 7" "Take Your Time" on Friday via Discosoma Records. It's limited to 100 copies, with individually-made sleeve art by the band.
Overheard in the Crowd: "If I joined this band right now, they'd be even better!"
The Jameses Set List:
Guy Harvey Set List:
Fits & Starts
Phone In The Jokes
Never Seen Snow (B-side of the vinyl)
Deal of the Century
Take Your Time (With Me) (the A-side of the vinyl)