Elvis Depressedly, Mitski, Eskimeaux, Middlechild
July 7, 2015
It’s rare for a touring bill to be stacked with not just two, but three, equally impressive bands all bringing something different and exciting to the stage, but that was the case last night at Walter’s. Featuring Elvis Depressedly from Asheville, N.C.; Mitski and Eskimeaux from New York; and Houston’s own Middlechild, the night was filled with engaging and emotional performances that coalesced for a tremendous showcase of young and talented acts.
First up was Middlechild, a young group that hearkens back to a ‘90s emo sound, reminiscient of Mineral or American Football. The four-piece was celebrating the release of their new self-titled album, which had just been made available online earlier that day. As the crowd swelled before they took the stage, earlier than the posted start time, it became apparent that many were there primarily to see them. The band toyed with slowcore sounds like Codeine, but pushed past that to find an aggressive and energetic singer. Singer Ricky Ramirez had perfected his scream, and the rest of the band was locked in and jamming along. For an opener, they played a particularly long set, but for a hometown album release show, the band had amassed a sizeable audience and left them satisfied with a captivating performance.
Next was Eskimeaux, the musical project of Gabrielle Smith, who has put time in playing for indie-pop group Frankie Cosmos, and was touring behind the recent release of her great new record, O.K., which came out in May. While Smith may be best known for her work backing up a different band, she has been recording and performing as Eskimeaux since 2007, and that experience showed as she took command of the stage. Here leading a four-piece band, Smith kept everything pristine, tight and clean, with each member precisely nailing the cues, every note punctual, and each movement appearing to be planned out. There was even some choreography present as the band members would step and sway together in rehearsed arrangements while playing. Smith proved herself a wonderful songwriter, knowing precisely when to bring in backup vocals for singalong choruses just as well as stripping everything out but her and the guitar, often jumping back and forth between the two frequently throughout a song. The set mostly was comprised of material from the new record, songs that were catchy and memorable and won over the crowd. It would not be surprising to see Eskimeaux headlining a bill the next time they came to town.
Mitski, the New York musician currently capping off a banner year anchored by last fall's release of her tremendous breakout record, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, followed. The album won her deserved praise and acclaim, serving as a showcase of emotional and powerful indie rock filled with more extreme, experimental tendencies. Her set at Walters offered a more stripped-down version of the songs from that record, as the setup featured just Mistki on electric guitar alongside a drummer. At first, the lack of a bass guitar seemed to be an issue for the band onstage as the crowd, which had dwindled slightly, was providing the sadly typical Houston welcome of talking over the artist’s set. But as Mitski moved towards the midpoint of her set, her commanding stage presence captured the audience’s attention and left many in the crowd speechless.
She began to tell stories of the inspirations behind her songs: current and past relationships, a kiss-off to the world at large, or, on the tender yet driving “I Will,” “a song for how I wanted someone to treat me." She stuck primarily to songs from Makeout Creek, veering off the path slightly with a riveting solo performance of “Class of 2013” from 2013's Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, that featured the artist holding her guitar up to her face and screaming into it. Mitski has developed a reputation for being a powerhouse live performer, and she lived up to that and then some. It may have taken her a couple songs to get the crowd on her side, but by the time she was finished everyone was left stunned.
Wrapping up was an energetic, cathartic set by Elvis Depressedly that whipped the audience into a fever pitch. The band played many cuts from their stellar new LP New Alahmbra, released back in May, but also kept up the variety by playing as many older songs as newer ones. The group played with a loose vibe, creating hypnotic indie-pop jams as lead singer Mat Cothran sauntered around the stage. He was commanding, unable to stand still while pacing and stumbling around, knocking things over while bringing a palpable sense of excitement to the show. Singer/keyboardist Delaney Mills provided intriguing juxtaposition with her light vocals as Cothran would collapse on the stage and begin howling.
While the band spent a lot of time on their great new songs, they also appeased the many diehard fans in the crowd by pulling back deep cuts, including a thrilling rendition of “Caroline, Please Kill Me” from Cotrhan’s other project, Coma Cinema. By the end of the evening, Cothran had ran into the crowd, leading a small pit of enthusiastic pit for fan-favorite “Weird Honey” from the band’s 2013 album Holo Pleasures. Surrounded by a group of dedicated fans, the band led a singalong with the room shouting, “If there’s a cold spot in hell, I hope you get it” to close out the whirlwind of a night.
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Even though Elvis Depressedly just played in Houston this past March, the show still saw a huge draw between them, Mitski, Eskimeaux, and Middlechild's album-release set. Many times, shows with rising bands don’t gel together or will have sets that drag, but this one never did. Hopefully, we’ll see more stacked lineups like this one soon.