Squeezing through cramped, narrow hallways leading to the relatively modest stage, I would never have guessed just how energetic and resonate a show at the Bowery Ballroom could be.
On Friday, Feb. 17, Oklahoma-based Other Lives played to a sold-out crowd in New York City, with the support of two other acts: Brooklyn native Lucius and Australia-based WIM. The Bowery, tucked away in the Lower East Side, was a perfect location for the night’s acts, with a stage conducive to intimate, engaging performances.
Based on previous experiences at shows, my expectations for opening bands are usually considerably low, except in particular instances. Considering Other Lives’ emergent popularity, (they are touring with Radiohead for most of their U.S. tour) I wasn’t expecting much with the openers. But boy, was I surprised. Lucius, a four-piece band, entered on stage promptly, brimming with energy. Lucius delivered their indie-pop tunes with vigor, most notably through the magnetic vocals of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. Their performance of “Go Home” perfectly exhibited both the power of Wolfe and Laessig’s vocals in harmony, as well as the firm support of the percussion and guitars. By the end of their performance, I actually wanted to hear more.
Accompanying Other Lives on their U.S. East Coast tour, WIM swiftly followed Lucius’ act. WIM maintained a balanced set of lively pop songs, alongside brooding, psychedelic anthems. The band constructed a mesmerizing soundscape with layered guitars, pulsing drums and vocal melodies constantly weaving through the dense wall of sound.
After two incredibly solid acts, Bowery’s crowd was perfectly warmed up for the main event: Other Lives. The band opened with “As I Lay My Head Down,” a track thumping with minor chords and guided by vocals from lead vocalist/guitarist Jesse Tabish and cellist/vocalist Jenny Hsu. The band primarily drew on material from their sophomore album, “Tamer Animals,” as well as testing out some new material. Their second song, “Dark House,” illustrated the expansiveness of their sound with cello, harmonium and looped trumpets, among other instruments. Amidst the range of tones and instrumentation, Tabish gives Other Lives such an identifiable personality, as his infectious vocal melodies pointedly accentuate the emotional tenor of the band’s repertoire.
What amazed me most was how rich Other Lives sounded in a live setting. The amount of labor and love the band puts into their studio recordings is apparent, which is why their albums never tire. As opposed to merely rehashing their songs in bland performance, Other Lives adds a new dimension to their material on stage, transcending the already full-bodied sound of their albums. Tabish’s resonant voice, the ringing pianos and the undercurrent of strumming acoustic guitars should be consumed in a concert setting. Aside from their music, one of the best parts about the show was how genuinely touched the band appeared to be playing for a packed New York crowd. When they come back, I’ll definitely be in line to see them again.