What’s Going on Your iPod
Last week I was lucky enough to see one of my favourite upcoming bands, Lord Huron, play at the Scala in London. If you haven’t heard of them, their closest musical brothers are often said to be Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver, which already places them in a very high class of experienced musicians; however, there is undeniably some extra element to Lord Huron which sets them apart from those who have gone before, and earns them a well-deserved place on your iPod. Perhaps it is the entire orchestra of unusual instruments in the hands of only five band members, or the way in which every song feels fresh and new, leading us right across the map of musical style; some tracks stay faithful to their Americana roots, some have a more tropical feel, some seem almost hauntingly gothic and mystical, and others are simply beautifully simple melodies telling stories of loneliness and the sweeping American landscape.
Lord Huron’s fanbase are evidently almost as eclectic as their songs; the Scala is full of people of all ages and all styles, although most seem to be somewhere in their twenties. The band themselves come on looking as though they have just wandered out of the wild west; front man and driving force behind Lord Huron, Ben Schneider, wears a distinctive hat which he could easily have stolen from Jesse James, and which he continually doffs like a 19th Century gentleman whenever he addresses the audience. The band take their places, carefully tuning what seems like every instrument in the world before opening with Ends of the Earth, mirroring the way in which their debut album, Lonesome Dreams, begins.
Straight away, the raw energy of the young band is clear, and their enthusiasm only increases as the concert goes on. The second song on the setlist, The Man Who Lives Forever, explodes from the stage in a burst of summery joy as Schneider leaves his guitar to alternate between percussion and vocals, whilst the rest of the band leap between guitars, bass, drums, bells and a whole host of other instruments, all thrown together in a colourful salad of sound.
This auditory collage only gets brighter and brighter as the band continue, with Schneider whipping out a mouth organ during Ghost on the Shore, making him more one-man band than front man as he also tackles both guitar and vocals. They finish in a haunting, hushed crescendo of bells and drums which melts seamlessly into She Lit a Fire, a beautifully cinematic song which sounds like a rural American adventure.
Schneider, as front man, does not talk much between songs, but when someone in the crowd yells “Hey Lord Huron, will you wish my friend a happy twenty-fourth birthday?” he quips “I was twenty-four three times; I’m honoured you’d rather be here on your birthday than drunk in some club,” demonstrating a level of wit and personality that it would be nice to see more of.
After a performance of the album’s title track, Lonesome Dreams, the band move off stage, leaving Schneider and his guitar to wrap the crowd in a sort of hushed silence with a beautiful rendition of Lullaby. They return soon after to lift energy levels once more with Time to Run, which rattles along like a train through the wastelands of middle America and straight into the explosive ending with which the band leave us. Schneider and friends wander back on moments later to treat us to an encore of Brother (Last Ride), a truly optimistic song which would also make the perfect anthem for a band of cowboys, before ending with Strangers, a song from an early E.P. which is clearly a crowd favourite.
Lord Huron’s, sometimes wistful, always movielike melodies were perfectly showcased in this relatively small, but big-hearted venue in London, where it was hard to find someone not dancing by the time the encore came around. This young band are definitely one to watch; give their debut album, Lonesome Dreams, a listen, and whatever mood you’re in, you’re almost certain to find a soundtrack to it.