Nightlands at The Sail Inn, 07-03-11

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The Sail Inn

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My very first thought when Nightlands took the stage last night and began cranking out lush harmonies was "Oh man, this band needs to open up for Fleet Foxes," and I couldn't be any more sincere about that statement.

It might seem a bit far-fetched considering the band is still a virtually unknown young band, but the gossamer four-part harmonies and expansive arrangements were nothing short of mesmerizing, and in keeping with Fleet Foxes' style. It was a shame the set only lasted a little more than 30 minutes, and that there weren't many people there to see it.

Nightlands is the solo effort of The War on Drugs bassist, David Hartley. Perhaps an allusion to the name of the project, the music is a sincere interpretation of what it might feel like to wake-up in a state of hazy, mental exuberance. Their music fits right into the burgeoning  "Dreampop" genre, complete with drowned out vocals, strummed guitars, and soft-hitting synths.

It might seem a tad bit cliché for me to use the word "dreamy," considering it's so often bounced around these days, but this is one of the few instances where I don't mind coming across a little cheesy. Perhaps "ecstasy" might be a more appropriate substitute, but after Nightland's spectacular performance, I would be more than happy to dish out every possible metaphor for describing the serenity of their music.

I am a fan of the band's album, and it was a pleasant surprise to see the music brought to life in grand fashion, with the help of a live band, who all happen to be respectable musicians in their own right. Even more impressive was their ability to work seamlessly, creating the impression that they've been touring and playing together from the onset.

The show kicked off a little late, with Phoenix-based Sister Cities hitting the stage at about 9, followed by Philadelphia folk-pop duo Buried Beds churning out Sharon Van Etten-esque songs. I should mention that they've been on the road with Nightlands through the entire tour, and one-half of the duo, Eliza Jones, serves as one of the harmonizing members of Hartley's live band.

Nightlands took the stage at about 11:15 and I couldn't help but feel a little awkward being the only attendee genuinely excited to see the band perform -- well, excluding the slightly obnoxious group of three visibly drunk girls blurting out incoherently -- but the band seemed completely content. They started off with a vocally enthralling interpretation of "Slowtrain," one of the standout tracks on Forget the Mantra.

The set only lasted a mere 35 minutes (to my personal displeasure), and unfortunately, it appeared this was due to some sort of issue within the band. It was a shame considering their music seems to be crafted in such a way that it builds upon itself, into a much larger, continually evolving musical presentation. Tonight just wasn't the night for that, though it wasn't without its moments. The band exchanged playful stage banter, and an affectionate older couple turned one song into a slow dance number.

The show last night had quite a bit working against it -- it was a Sunday night, it was the eve of the Fourth of July, and the band was plagued by some internal issues. But all three bands sounded good, and some nights are just difficult, and when your music aspires to such lofty grandeur, landing on the ground can be hard.

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: Fairly non-existent. Primarily bar patrons.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Fuck Steve Nash." It might be fair to point out the stage banter consisted of Hartley name-dropping a few Phoenix athletes, Nash being one of them, leading to this response by an intoxicated bar patron.

Personal Bias: I'm a "dreampop" aficionado, and a lover of lush pop tunes, so this was incredibly enthralling for me. And hey, I didn't mind having the floor to myself.

Nightlands Set List:



"All the Way"

"300 Clouds"


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