Quick Concert Review: London’s 2:54 at Rock and Roll Hotel

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Sunday night shows can be tough draws. Odds are that you had a strong Friday and Saturday night…and maybe Thursday, too. Conventional wisdom says that it’s time to regroup; the work week is starting up again in the AM. Do you really want to go out to see a much buzzed-about London band and start the week off tired (and possibly hungover)? If that band is 2:54 in early June 2012…apparently not.

Widowspeak, a shoegazey Brooklyn quartet, was opening. Since the show started earlier than most (probably for the above stated reasons) their entire set cannot be evaluated. That being said, their last three songs were intriguing and further listening seems both advisable and inevitable.

There is seemingly a lot of buzz for 2:54, a London-based sister act that just released their first record. Apparently, it has yet to reach Washington, D.C. A small crowd formed at Rock and Roll Hotel last Sunday night to see their initial performance in the former colony’s capital. Performing as a quartet, the band is not going to wow you with bright lights or flashy flourishes; that’s not what shoegazer chic does. Reverb and echo may well have been on every mike in the place – from vocals to drums – and minimalist guitar licks in the mid to upper portion of the register provided the anxious ambience of a foggy cemetery. Hannah Thurlow’s vocals possess an ominous ethereality that may remind some of Lush, Rose Chronicles or Sarah McLachlan, and they are delivered with a sizable serving of sex appeal.

That appeal is shrouded by diffused reds and blues, with nary a spotlight to be found. The strength of the rhythm section underlines that sensuality, though, steadily propelling it forward in a brooding search for the toro of the underground’s underbelly. Guitarist Colette Thurlow stayed out of the muted blues and reds almost entirely, presenting a shadowy figure that was clearly pulling (or at least strumming) strings in the murkiness. This left Hannah as the focal point, a reality she acknowledged with idiosyncratic dancing and frequent hair tossing that offered a feminine and unguarded first date feeling.

Meticulous tuning between songs showed that this is a band that takes their sound seriously, even while they did little to provide a kinetic stage show (while offering up an unexpectedly tight performance). Of course, it would have been strange to see pop theatrics set against a mood that dances with melancholy, not ecstasy. Indeed, their languid, heartfelt and emotive grooves seemed appropriate in the mostly empty venue, a situation that will soon slip away into the ether, much like their atmospheric music.

Photo by: Greg Donnelly, http://yesterdayssweater.tumblr.com/

Photo by: Greg Donnelly, http://yesterdayssweater.tumblr.com/

Photo by: Greg Donnelly, http://yesterdayssweater.tumblr.com/

Photos by: Greg Donnelly, Yesterday’s Sweater

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Behrnsie has a love for music that dare not speak its name. He attends many shows and can often be found counting out the beats for no discernible reason. He played alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band, where he was best known for infuriating his instructor when it was revealed that he played everything by ear, and could not in fact read music. He takes great pride that this is the same talent/affliction that got Tori Amos kicked out of the Peabody Academy. He does not live in his parents’ basement….except during the holidays.