[13 June 2011]
It might be just another Wednesday night to some, but it’s a big night for Here We Go Magic. The Brooklyn-based psychedelic indie rock band is concluding a lengthy spring tour with a show at one of the best rooms in Austin. It’s a perfect venue for the band, with great sound and ambiance. The band also has a strong new release out, The January EP, so there’s new material to hear as well.
The show starts with an ambient jam that at first seems like it can’t get off the ground. But then one realizes it’s by design, as the group is setting the tone with a hypnotizing opener to condition ears for what’s to come. The set takes off with “Hibernation”, the opening track from Pigeons, the band’s sophomore LP from 2010. Guitarist/vocalist/bandleader Luke Temple’s lyrics reference “no more weary daylight”, an appropriate sentiment since the sweltering Texas day is gone and the evening is now coming alive. Keyboardist Kristina Lieberson and second guitarist Michael Bloch add vocal harmonies to lift the song higher, as they will continue to do throughout the set.
The group’s trademark mix of jangly guitars and ambient layers of swirly psychedelia create a unique sonic tapestry unlike any other band that has come through town in recent memory. “Casual” starts slow with the band still finding its footing before they build it into a deep jam that lets any casual fans know that Here We Go Magic are more than your typical indie rock band. They like to jam and those jams go to some interesting spaces. It’s not the guitar-driven jamming that dominates the jamband scene, but rather a more unique style where the band pushes the songs into a deeper sonic territory than most bands are willing to attempt.
“Only Pieces”, from the band’s first album, features some guest percussion from members of White Rabbits, who had asked Here We Go Magic to open for them in Austin last year. The song’s mesmerizing groove goes to another level with the poly-rhythmic percussion. The energy of the set continues to grow, with bassist Jennifer Turner and drummer Pete Hale adding a deft touch. Here We Go Magic sounded great when they opened for White Rabbits, but it’s clear that another year of touring has made the band an even tighter and more versatile unit than ever. Austinites must have a space in their hearts for them; when Lieberson requests someone get her a vodka soda after the song and an eager to please fan soon appears at the front of the stage with the beverage, bringing a great smile to her face.
The band really starts to gel during “Hands in the Sky” from the new EP. The song builds in slow but sure fashion until a delicious melodic swirl of psychedelia encompasses the room. Turner joins Lieberson on the keys, as the low end is replaced by an extra layer of keyboard melody. The band continues into “Song in Three”, the following track on the EP and easily one of their best songs yet. Lieberson establishes a dreamy psychedelic sound on the keys, while the jangly guitars create rippling sonic waves over the steady rhythm. The song takes on an underwatery, Atlantean vibe during an uplifting jam for one of the evening’s highlights. The members of the group are all fine players, but the band’s ability to skillfully blend different sounds together in majestic harmony demonstrates a whole that adds up to more than the sum of the parts.
“Tulip” is another new track that shines. It’s got a more rocking vibe, but still with a dreamy sort of quality thanks to Temple’s trancey vocals and harmonies from Lieberson. Lieberson and Temple really mesh on the jam, with the band taking an extended sonic journey that goes far beyond the studio rendition. “Land of Feeling” is another winner. It starts off slow and ambient, with Temple’s dreamy vocals and Lieberson’s ever-psychedelic keys intertwining to mesmerize the audience yet again. The subtle bass groove from Turner also stands out, as the diverse sonic parts mesh in luminous fashion once more.
The band has been at the top of their game all night, but they top themselves by closing it out with “Collector”, the breakthrough song from Pigeons that declared Here We Go Magic as a sonic force to be reckoned with. This next level song has it all – a driving danceable bass groove under an uptempo beat, highly catchy guitar lines and vocals, and majestic keyboards. It all adds up to a triumphant tune that is easily one of the most memorable of recent years.
There are few bands in the indie-rock scene that are capable of taking the studio template of their songs and growing them onstage into unique versions that take the listener on an extended journey. Here We Go Magic stand above the over-crowded indie field with this ability. This gives the band a vast potential to keep on growing in both skill and popularity themselves.