Alvvays, Late Bloomer and Absolutely Free at Neighborhood Theatre

By Shirley Griffith

Photo: Carter Short

November 20, 2014

Friday night in NoDa was the kind of night I’d have expected from a more noticeable metropolis like Brooklyn, Atlanta or Chicago. Despite the bitter cold temperatures, throngs of bundled music lovers littered the streets and laughed alongside each other in the unexplainable high energy of the air. NoDa’s biggest and longest-standing venue, The Neighborhood Theatre, opened its warm glass doors to welcome fans of Canadian indie pop band, Alvvays. (Pronounced ‘Always’, FYI.)

Late Bloomer

Charlotte’s own indie-punk rockers Late Bloomer assembled onstage to start off the evening. Before opening their set, before introducing themselves, before anything, bassist/singer Joshua Robbins called attention to the show happening the very next night at the venue, a benefit for local musician Luke Hill who recently became the victim of a hit and run. Seeing Robbins’ and the crowd’s cheering support for a fellow neighbor reminded me without a doubt that man, this city has got a lot of class. Without farewell to the moment’s supportive sentiment, the trio stepped into their set of delightfully muddied chords and punk-inspired garage beats. Guitars wailed and crooned with abandoned angst and bass riffs nodded their lo-fi head to Late Bloomer influences like Dinosaur Jr, coercing the thickening crowd into whooping applause.

Absolutely Free

Absolutely Free, an unassuming three-piece who also hail from Canada, began their set with a clean-cut lullaby that quickly delved into a wavy, explosive sound reminiscent of Secret Machines. Youthful but stylishly stoic, the front man exemplified the music’s subtle power through a MIDI percussion pad and each band member allowed the music to ebb and flow through themselves as easily as a watery current.

Molly Rankin of Alvvays. Photo by Carter Short

Alvvays set up quietly on stage while flashing smiles at the dense, excited audience before erupting their infectious pop into the room as if sound were brightly-colored confetti whirling down from the venue’s ceiling. The performance unabashedly grinned out energy through the candied, refreshing slap-back delay vocals of lead singer, Molly Rankin. Fast-paced “Next of Kin” billowed the perfect mixture of pop chords and splashing drumbeats. Reassuring and fun, Molly coyly winked out lyrics, “I’ll be an astronaut / I will be lost in space / I will be skipping rocks” on “Ones Who Love You” mirroring the childish, yearning guitar that begs the listener to come away with its playful, out-of-this-world bursts.

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Molly Rankin of Alvvays. Photo by Carter Short

The show skipped along from the refreshing, gripping first chirps of songs to their resolved, crestfallen endings. The band played both anthemic hits like “Archie, Marry Me” as well as wistful, languid songs like “Dives” that cradled themselves into introspection. The Toronto quintet managed to sun-kiss their melodies and disguise trepidation in a savvy sugarcoat while maintaining signature undertones of darker melancholies throughout the entire performance. Even Rankin sang and strummed her guitar with either furrowed, frustrated brows and a pleading “You don’t have to leave / You can just stay here with me…” or a calming, twinkling gaze over the bouncing crowd when she confidently finished with “…we can find comfort in debauchery.” This clever composition of opposites and the playfulness, like playing a game of tag, was just one of many charms exhibited from the aspiring band.

Alvvays photo by Carter Short

The show was dreamy but purposeful, passionate but unhurried and in all its jangly bashfulness commanded the venue into uproar with fans begging for more.

Listen to Archie, Marry Me by Alvvays.

Listen to the new album Things Change by Late Bloomer.

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