Arts & Entertainment, Features

REVIEW: Local acts’ energy overtakes “Takeover”

Oh Malô performed for The Takeover: 2nd Edition at the House of Blues Thursday night. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRITZ ROSS PRODUCTIONS
Oh Malô performed for The Takeover: 2nd Edition at the House of Blues Thursday night. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRITZ ROSS PRODUCTIONS

You know that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get when you see a band that completely exceeds your expectations? You arrive at the venue, unsure of whether you’ll leave grinning, cringing or just early. Instead, you almost zombie-walk out the doors, in awe of the musical goodness you just witnessed.

That’s exactly how the audience left The House of Blues Foundation Room Thursday night after seeing five incredibly talented Boston bands for The Takeover: 2nd Edition.

The scent of beer and prematurely sweaty bodies permeated the room in true concert fashion. Halfway through the first set, the venue was already filled to capacity — mainly a crowd of college students and local music junkies sporting a surprisingly balanced mixture of flannels and crewneck sweaters.

Starting off the night was mellow folk group The Western Den, fronted by the enchanting harmonies of vocalists Deni Hlavinka and Chris West. The band’s chilled-out vibe synchronized perfectly with the room’s carpeted walls, dimly lit chandeliers and dark ambiance. Hlavinka and West’s flawless harmonies were complimented by a smooth viola and muted trumpet.

While many in the crowd were noisy, The Western Den drew it into their ambient world and tuned out any other distractions. The band, who will be releasing an EP on March 23, ended the set with “Desert Ground,” a mellow yet compelling song.

Next up was Oh, Malô, a moody indie rock foursome and the standout performance of the night. Lead singer Brandon Hafetz’s intriguing, high-pitched voice (reminiscent of Thom Yorke’s), and the funky bass lines of Jordan Lagana shook everyone out of the mellow trance left by The Western Den.

The band almost fit the grungy college rock mold to a T, but Hafetz’s distinctive voice and the group’s incredible stage presence set them far above the average college band. Their Local Natives influence was apparent through the onstage guitar jam sessions with Hafetz, Lagana and guitarist Jack McLoughlin.

“Play me something I can rock to,” Hafetz crooned during “Feed,” and Oh Malô did just that, as the entire crowd could be seen wobbling their heads to the beat of the music.

It may have been the alcohol really kicking in, but by the middle of the night, the crowd’s energy was at a high — and in perfect timing for NOVI, a group that fuses alternative, electronic and R&B music together to create a surprisingly pleasing sound. NOVI is fronted by vocalists Adam Halliday and Rebekah Samarin and features an array of musical instruments: saxophone, trumpet and trombone, as well as an electronic auto pad.

NOVI was incredibly entertaining to watch. The band was having just as much fun as the crowd. Their opening song featured a funky trumpet solo that beckoned each body to dance. The highlight of NOVI’s set, and possibly the entire night, was an upbeat and groovy rendition of Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s “FourFiveSeconds” that sounded like it could come from a modernized Earth, Wind & Fire.

The powerful instruments in the band made it hard at times to really focus on the gorgeous voices of Halliday and Samarin, but they really did thrive when they played their louder, upbeat tracks. The chemistry between the two vocalists was undeniable. NOVI ended their set strong by bringing out a guest rapper for “Won’t You Stay the Night,” receiving one of the loudest rounds of applause and cheers of the night.

Boston favorites Grey Season were the fourth act of the night. Before the show, they performed a quick set on the stairs outside the Foundation Room for fans that arrived early. They proved that shredding on a mandolin is possible and that four guys yodeling can sound beautiful. Their acoustic performance on the stairs was equally as impressive and entertaining as their amplified performance in the actual venue, verified by the enthusiastic crowd.

Between songs about moms and drinking gin, lead singer Jon Mills added hilarious commentary before leading the band into upbeat folk songs to get the crowd moving. The addition of Chris Bloniarz’s banjo playing gave an extra spark of personality to the performance. Whether they’re giving a small acoustic performance or playing loud and rowdy, Grey Season keeps it impossible to wipe the grin from your face.

Though the night was getting late, funk group Ripe ended the show making everyone feel awake and alive. Lead singer Robbie Wulfsohn doesn’t just ask for attention — he demands and receives. Every person in the crowd was dancing shamelessly after the first few notes. Josh Shpak’s trumpet and Calvin Barthel’s trombone playing and the band’s overall electric energy really added to the performance, giving Ripe the funkiest set of the night.

Ripe transports you to a west coast beach town with their sunny sound, meant for anything but a dreadful Boston winter. Whether they’re playing their own fun songs like “Down With the Darkside” or a great cover of “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” from “The Lion King,” Ripe puts on an entertaining show for all. For those looking to get a head start on that spring break mentality, Ripe will be playing another show on Thursday at Brighton Music Hall.

Overall, each band brought their own infectious set of styles to the Foundation Room. From folk to funk, these bands proved that the Boston local scene is alive and flourishing.

More Articles

One Comment

  1. “They proved that shredding on a mandolin is possible and that four guys yodeling can sound beautiful.”