Dancing? Singing? Clapping along? Hanging from the rafters?
Just your average folk hop n’ roll show, ladies and gentlemen.
In support of their latest record, Judah and the Lion made their way to the Deluxe room at Old National Centre Thursday, March 24. Since it’s not a party without guests, they were joined by The Saint Johns.
Once again, we’re going into this one without any real knowledge about either band. I couldn’t name a single song and definitely couldn’t pick them out of a lineup, and it’s with this knowledge that I’m the perfect candidate to review this show. So let’s grab my tickets, make my way to the Murat’s basement, and settle in for an evening of music. Allons-y:
While another show was going on elsewhere in the building, the rest of us head downstairs. The room is about half-full, with more people trickling in as time goes on. A few people check out the merch table over in the corner, while others tried staking out the best spot to watch (there are four giant pillars in this room…).
8:00 finally comes, and out come this musical duo hailing from Nashville (Tennessee, not Indiana). Much like our headliner, they too just released a new record. Let’s see how they do:
There was no percussion in this set. Only Louis Johnson on acoustic guitar, a third person on accompanying electric, and Jordan Meredith on vocals, giving their music a more melancholy feel. There isn’t a whole lot of cheer going on during this performance, and the blue stage lights kind of match the atmosphere. This also caused some of the audience members to check out of the performance (we’ll get to that later), but some watch attentively.
Musically, there weren’t a lot of complaints. Both Johnson and Meredith bring a lot of emotion into their songs, and some of the best harmonies this side of Lily and Madeleine. There’s a lot of heart in their music, and it definitely shows. The onstage banter was a little awkward at times, and maybe there was a bit of a disconnect from there, but in the very least, they nailed one of the most important parts. Overall, a solid performance. I don’t think this will be the last time we’ll be hearing from The Saint Johns. We’ll check in sooner rather than later.
We’ve got a break in the action, and now it’s time to finish setting up for our main event. Some people make their way over to the merch table set up in the back corner of the room to meet with the Saint Johns, while the rest move forward and stake out better spots. It’s a bit of a lengthy wait (per usual), but it’ll be worth it.
At least I think it will.
Much like our first act, I have no idea who Judah and the Lion is, much less know one of their songs, but that’s the fun part about this gig. Let’s discover something new tonight.
The house lights go out, the band greets everyone, and we’re off.
From the start, I’m finding out the “folk hop n’ roll” label is pretty spot-on. J+TL blends elements of folk, rock n’ roll, synthesizers, and apparently dance parties because the majority of this room is losing their collective minds dancing and singing the night away. Even the two people who were manning their merch stand.
Some bands are more performance-based and others want to put on a show. Judah falls in the latter category. There’s plenty of audience participation going on in the form of clapping and singing, frontman Judah Akers makes his way out into the crowd several times during the performance and even hangs from the rafters a-la Adam Lazzara during the earlier days of Taking Back Sunday, and seem more focused on providing a fun environment than anything else, and they’re doing it better than most.
There aren’t many breaks in the action, but it doesn’t feel like a musical overload. They’ve found the right balance for a show between music, talking, when to slow it down and speed it back up, and keeping the audience engaged for the near-hour they performed. Musically, I’m discovering they might not really be for me, but from a performance standpoint, they’ve leaving their mark.
The night is almost over, and as they wrap up their last song with rousing sing-along, the audience demands more. The band eventually makes their way back to the stage for an encore before sending us all on our way back to the real world. The one that’s much quieter and not nearly as exciting.
The folk hop n’ roll movement, while maybe not for me (and I still can’t name a single song), is alive and well here in the Circle City. Not everything has to be dark and uber serious. Some things can include a banjo, a keyboard, and a dance party with a hundred of your closest friends. It’s been about a week since being in that basement and witnessing everything that went down, and the spectacle of it all still sticks with me.
So for that, folk hop n’ roll then, now, and forever.
Some bands just want to have fun, and some just want to perform. This show had both. The Saint Johns might not wow anyone with showmanship, but they’ve got a lot of emotion and heart behind their music, and Judah and the Lion will entertain even the biggest skeptics of the folk genre.
There’s always someone taller than you standing in front of you when it’s a standing room only venue.