Show Review: The Honey Brothers, Soko, and his Orchestra @ The Independent 9/12/09

by Marie Carney on September 13, 2009

Does the spotlight just shine for Adrian Grenier and The Honey Brothers?

Does the spotlight just shine for Adrian Grenier and The Honey Brothers?

I’ve been thinking about how every show review I write is positive, which makes sense since, if I’m going to a show, it is someone I like and listen to.  But tonight was a little different.  I’ve had the hots for Adrian Grenier since the movie Drive Me Crazy, and continue to love him on the HBO show Entourage, so when our Editor-In-Chief wanted a live edition of Sing it Hasselhoff I was happy to oblige.  I was even more excited when I found out Soko, who I was sad canceled her spot at SXSW 2009, was opening.  But I had no real idea what I was in for and thought this might be my first negative show review.  But when, during the second song from the opening band his Orchestra, two of the band members started running around the audience laughing and playing I knew that either this was going to be the best show ever or one giant letdown.

Vanessa and I had gotten there early, so when his Orchestra started playing we were sitting down off to the side.  Halfway through the second song, right after the running around bit, Vanessa turned to me and asked if I wanted to go stand closer- I said yes.  And I am so happy I did!  If I was forced to describe their music it would be indie rock/folk/twee/pop (which I mean in the most lush sounding Belle & Sebastian-y way).  Part of that description may come from the instrumentation and number of band members the standard configuration being  vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums, bass, cello and violin.  For many of the songs the vocals were three part harmonies.  Everyone in the band was a master of their instrument.  No one was worried about making mistakes or missing a beat, they were just there to have fun.

That is what really made his Orchestra stand out:  the pure joy that poured out of the band members from the stage.  The cellist/percussionist Kestrin Pantera and bassist/acoustic guitarist Winthrop Ellsworth (best name ever!) were particularly infectious.  Every moment of every song there was a smile, a pounding foot, a dance, something pure and fantasitc straight from their soul.  That is not to say the other band members were not fantastic.  Violinist Paul Cartwright was fabulous and drummer Raviv Ullman (who I can’t believe we didn’t recognize as Phil from the late great Disney show Phil of the Future) was fun to watch making classic drummer faces and singing along.  Singer/Guitarist Douglas Smith seemed to be the glue for all the wild energy, and Vanessa instantly recognized him from an old teen show on “The N” network making this a double-Hasselhoff event.  What we should have realized, and didn’t until we got home, is that he is on the show Big Love as the son Ben Henrickson.

his Orchestra and their blurry selves

his Orchestra and their blurry selves

After that both Vanessa and I were worried we were in for a big letdown, but we got in our spot front and center and waited for Soko to come on.  We didn’t have to wait long as Soko plays solo, and all the acts seemed to be sharing equipment (thank you!).  Soko I knew of because Lily Allen had promoted this video back in the day on her Myspace blog.  She is an adorable french spitfire!  Her songs may be angsty and a little sloppy, but again her passion for what she does is just heartwarming.  Though halfway through her set she ended up bringing out the members of his Orchestra (minus Douglas Smith) to play with her.  They seemed to have a blast and told the story of how they had only met two days before and Soko had just run in to their dressing room and started conducting them and told them they would play with her.  It was like watching the begining of a friendship, when it’s more like a crush and everyone is so excited to be there and every moment means so much more than what it is.  I found myself grinning through much of the set between Soko’s wit and her infectious excitement to be playing with her new friends.  The only complaint I have is that she didn’t play the song I know her for “I’ll Kill Her,” but when it was requested she sweetly said “I don’t kill anymore” and all was forgiven.

Somewhere during all of this, the one thing I knew would happen at this show happened.  All the drunk girls started appearing to see “that hot guy from Entourage.”  Now I’m a fangirl and I’ve been known to do some swooning, and honestly, my reason for being there wasn’t a whole lot different from theirs.  But at the heart of any fangirl spazzing I may do is a deep appreciation for music and the joy it brings.  These girls were not music fans.  First off, by halfway through Soko’s set you could barely hear her through the drunken babbling and the level of respect didn’t get much better for the headliner.  I was in the front center when The Honey Brothers came on and a whole herd of drunk bitches for lack of a better term spent most of the set standing next to me either giggling, talking about wanting to lick a certain band members’ shoes and rotating in and out of the spot next to me to take pictures.  It was ridiculous and embarrassing.  I felt like I had to make up for their behavior by stoically not looking at Mr. Adrian Grenier on drums.  Luckily ukelele/vocalist Ari Gold (yes you read that name right) was full of charisma and wearing great glasses, so it was very easy to watch the other side of the stage.

The Honey Brothers bring you kind of a surf rock/alt-country sound (though they call themselves ‘new wave folk’).  They have a surf rock 60′s aesthetic, but with too much banjo and mandolin to be straight up rock and roll.  They are a tight band with Adrian Grenier on drums and Ari Gold and DS Posner trading vocals.  Then Adrian took the lead and guitar for two songs, which was not the best idea.  I understand why they did it, they know who the girls are here to see, but when he started playing a guitar solo with a recorder they lost me completely.   It probably didn’t help that the song sounded like it was straight off the Paul Simon record Graceland, of which I am not a fan (yeah, yeah, I don’t want to hear it).  But overall they were a good tight band and kept up the energy.  It was just a little scary to look around and only see two men in the audience… that hasn’t happened at a show for a long time!  For the encore Vanessa and I went to the back and there were more men and cooler people.  We probably should have done that a lot earlier…

I took a picture of the original setlist, then they put out a revised setlist that is basically illegible, even the band couldn’t read it!  (it was the one they followed of course):

honeybrothers_setlist1honeybrothers_setlist2

To sum up the evening:
Soko:  charming and fun.  Worth watching.  Her songs were the ones in my head at the end of the night.
The Honey Brothers:  entertaining but not really my thing.  Would watch them again, but stand in the back.
his Orchestra:  are like listening to an epiphany.  They have great songs fleshed out by talented musicians and have inspired my most gushing review since Graham Coxon.

What I’m trying to say, in 1300 words or less, is this:  if you get the chance to see his Orchestra, please do.  You can thank me later.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vanessa Romero September 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm

we’ll need to have a roadtrip down to SoCal to see them again.

Reply

Marie Carney September 13, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Right? Disneyland and his Orchestra would make an awesome mini-break.

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