By Brent Hill
July 16, 2014
During the Middle Ages the sound of the horn signaled a major event. It meant someone important was about to arrive. It meant the hunt was afoot. It meant get ready– cuz some serious shit is about to go down. So it makes sense that the Charlotte band Ancient Cities busted out the horns for their debut CD release show at the Visulite on Saturday night– amping up their foot-stomping psycedelic synth-pop sound for a delighted hometown crowd.
With the local badass brass duo of Phil Howe (trumpet) and Chris George (French horn) playing on several songs, and high on the release of their excellent debut album, Ancient Cities gave a performance worthy of a trumpet blast or two or thirty.
And with just a few weeks until their Floydfest performance, lead singer Stephen Warwick and the boys revealed a live sound that is bright, tight and ready for the big stage. They started their set with the album-opener “Juice”– a wise choice and an opportunity for Warwick to bang the drum and rally the troops.
Three songs later, Howe and George showed up with the horns for “Station,” and the concert hit its jubiliant stride. Barely slowing down to catch their breath, Warwick and company launched into “Edie Sedwick”– at which point the band received a rousing response from the audience. “Edie” could be the dark horse of the album.
Big and promising, Ancient Cities live sound is a celebration of sonic textures. Layers that move and mingle, swell and fall. As evidenced on the trippy “LASR”– a virtual stomping ground for Justin Fedor’s haunting bass lines. A great song on the album, no doubt– but an epic journey on the stage. In fact, the second half of the show, particularly during “LASR”– with its full shout chorus, the band seemed more driven and more aggressive in their attempt to scale the wall of psychedelic sound they created.
The official set ended with stirring renditions of “Call of the Wild” and Werewolf,” solidifing Ancient Cities place in Charlotte’s pantheon of great bands. And as the final chords of the encore– a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run”– faded. And as the crowd shook off the shock of Warwick and Howe’s heated guitar and trumpet Battle Royale, it was clear that Ancient Cities has truly arrived.