July 29 2012 – This summer Virgin Mobile is presenting Indie Fridays, a series of free concerts every Friday at Yonge-Dundas Square. Already this summer they’ve had the Paper Lions and The Beauties. On Friday, July 27th, it was The Bright Light Social Hour from Austin, Texas.
The Bright Light Social Hour (TBLSH) was one of our recommended picks for NXNE in June. But unfortunately, due to their 2am time-slot at The Horseshoe Tavern on a Thursday night, the thought of getting home some time after three, then getting up a few hours later prevented us from seeing them. After a very late night on Wednesday and with late nights to follow on Friday and Saturday, the T-MAK World team decided to make it an early night and be ready for Friday.
TBLSH is Curtis Roush on guitar and vocals, Jack O’Brien on bass and vocals, drummer Joseph Mirasole and keyboardist A.J. Vincent. The band won 6 awards at 2011 SXSW including Band of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year. Their sound is a modern take on the Allman Brothers and 70s Southern Rock with long songs and long instrumental sections.
They opened with “When You’re Gone” and got into an early groove and stayed there all night. The bouncy, soulful “Shanty” was up next with Roush playing slide guitar and it was already becoming clear that this was an insanely talented band bound for very big things. The third song was a rousing “Bare Hands Bare Feet” and it was clear they can stomp like their spiritual brothers from Minnesota, 4onthefloor but with an added psychedelic organ with a Leslie rotating speaker effect (more on that later). Smoothly sliding into the mostly instrumental “La Piedra De La Iguana”, then followed with the bluesy “Detroit“.
“Maybe I Do” is highlighted by a section of hypnotic echoed scale runs with a dance beat that rises to a crescendo at the end of the song. The guitar is reminiscent of The Edge of U2. I wish I’d taken video of that song because, for me, it was the highlight of the set. Try this one from Boca Raton, Florida instead. The video doesn’t do justice though to the energy and intensity of being there. The sound at YDS, btw, was great.
Some of the other highlights were their take on Mannish Boy, Back and Forth, the 10 minute Garden Of The Gods. They closed the show with The Who’s Young Man Blues with baby faced drummer Joseph Mirasole doing his best Keith Moon during an extended drum solo. They came back for an encore of Rhubarb Jam.
With their long hair, beards and mustaches now it’s funny to compare their look in 2009 when they were clean cut with short hair when they filmed the video for Back and Forth.
An incredible part of TBLSH’s sound is their old-school organ sound. Keyboardist Vincent uses a Leslie rotating speaker effect that uses the Doppler effect of raising and lowering pitch to give a church organ sort of pulsing, reverby sound. There is a link to a sound sample on the wiki page to hear the effect. Jimmy Page used the Leslie speaker effect in the outro solo of Black Dog. It was the first time I’d ever seen one used live and it was very cool to see how it worked.
The band were victims of theft when $15,000 worth of their equipment, including Curt’s custom Telecaster and Dr. Z amp and Jack’s custom Fender P-bass, along with most of their luggage was stolen on Friday, July 20 in Saskatoon. They tweeted about it on the 22nd, asking for help to continue their tour and as of Friday, they’d raised $9450 and borrowed some new equipment and they made a very heartfelt blog post on their website thanking their fans for their generosity.
As I tweeted on Friday night, The Bright Light Social Hour is bound for BIG THINGS. This is a great band to see live. BLSH will be back in Toronto on October 24th with Umphrey’s McGee at the Danforth Music Hall. You can follow The Bright Light Social Hour on Twitter at @tblsh
Review and photos by Steve Mallinson