Portugal. The Man wins over Allston crowd

A review of Portugal. The Man and Earl Greyhound at Harpers Ferry on November 2

, Staff Writer

Harpers Ferry is a perfect Sunday-night venue. It features a small but nice stage area in front of a bar that allows the more casual concert-goer to sit down, and televisions to watch, in this case, Sunday Night Football. This past Sunday, Portugal. The Man and Earl Greyhound had to compete with pre-election anxiety and the Pats playing the Colts, but managed to pack the place with energetic fans (catching the performers by surprise). They were grateful for the crowd, however, and made sure those in attendance knew it.

Portugal. The Man took the stage playing cuts from their newest album, Censored Colors, though they at one point regaled the crowd with a heavy and awesome cover of "One Is The Loneliest Number" complete with raucous guitars and crazy drum-work by Garrett Lunceford and keyboardist Ryan Neighbors on percussion detail. After playing their first song, John Baldwin Gourley, guitarist and singer, commented on the huge crowd, thanking everyone for showing up: "I didn’t think nobody knew us", he said, asking how so many people could be out with work tomorrow.

The band’s gratefulness showed in their music – the guys played the hell out of their songs. The band’s style is highly varied, rooted pretty firmly in indie rock, as well as experimental and progressive music, giving their songs a very organic and free-moving aesthetic. Their rhythmic play is astounding, switching between two-and-three step beats at the drop of a hat, blasting incredibly loud noise out of their speakers and suddenly pulling out the bottom and stopping. It was very reminiscent of The Mars Volta, though slightly more cohesive, particularly lyrically. One of their finest performances was "1989", from their newest album, a persistent guitar drone sounding off above a dreamy mass of instrumentation. The song gave way to a total jam-out, the band weaving through hard rock, psychedelic, even reggae. Lunceford’s penchant for triplets made itself known throughout the performance and helped keep things interesting. The band would often fall into a long-winded ambient psych-out while the drummer ripped his skins apart, bolstered by Neighbors’ unrelenting stream of sixteenth notes.

Throughout the show the band would use their more experimental moments to shout random things into the microphone, often inane sounds without much relation to the rest of the song. They would smile at one another while doing this, throwing up impromptu harmonies here and there. It was clear that Portugal was having a great time: they were surprised by the surge of people who had come to see them, and they wanted to put on the best possible show.

To this end the band succeeded. They gave the audience exactly what they wanted, featuring themselves with long instrumental jams, virtuosic vocal work and just a general friendliness that really helped get the audience into the show. Portugal. The Man made it clear that they were performing for these people, not just happening to be playing in front of a crowd, interacting in between songs and deftly riding the spontaneous up-and-down waves of momentum, particularly during "Colors", which appeared towards the tail-end of their set. It was a quintessentially Portugal. The Man moment (a moment I didn’t know existed until seeing them), and was fascinating from a musical perspective, as well as a fantastic display of showmanship. Portugal. The Man absolutely deserves to be drawing huge crowds, and with the way these guys put themselves on stage, it shouldn’t be too long before we start to hear a lot more about them.

Earl Greyhound are a hard rock power trio from Brooklyn, and have released an EP and full-length album since their inception in 2003. Listening to them perform, their influences clearly are drawn largely from bands of the 1970s with clear song progressions, rhythmic bass playing, scorching guitar solos and intricate vocal harmonies. Their most notable feature is two vocalists in guitarist Matt Whyte and bassist Kamara Thomas. Thomas’ vocals often weave in and out of the bass she is playing, at other times she harmonizes perfectly with Whyte. Earl Greyhound are a band perfectly in sync with each other, and drummer Ricc Sheridan kept momentum moving forward with energetic patterns and killer solos when called for. The band’s obvious highlight was their hit "S.O.S.", which has been featured in numerous videogames, as well as an episode of Bionic Woman.& Another enjoyable tune was "It’s Over", a White Stripes-esque rocker, Whyte screaming his head off by the end as Thomas cooed into the microphone. The band put together a set that was thoroughly enjoyable, and they played their heads off, filling Harpers Ferry with noise until the bartender was forced to stick a pair of earplugs into his head.

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