Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
iss Golden Messenger had yet to play a note or sing one word before a fan asked lead singer MC Taylor if he went to the bookstore. And Taylor, knowing that he was in the shadow almost literally of the Harvard Bookstore said, "Yes, I did" with a touch of laughter. He then proceeded to tell a humorous story about how a person walked in and asked if he could post a flier about a noise concert with an elderly woman nearby, who knew nothing about that genre.
Well, that genre had nothing to do with Hiss Golden Messenger either, but it was an indication that this would be one engaging concert from a band playing rock, country, swampy music, a bit funky at times and some folk.
Taylor does look he would be at home in the Harvard bookstore (he does have a master's degree in folklore from the University of North Carolina, which he bagged for music. Smart move), but, fortunately, he and his stellar band ploughed into the music.
This wasn't the kind of show where the faithful were waiting for a hit or two. No need with a quality performance like this (and it's not like HGM has had any hits per se). Instead, it was a night of music where over the course of 1 ¾ hours, HGM was one cohesive unit.
It may have typically started with Taylor, an unassuming, but nonetheless charismatic front man who gets into the heart of the songs with his delivery.
But HGM was far more than Taylor. Chris Boerner was impressive on lead guitar in song after song. He could fill a song, while quickly taking over and propelling the song with his sharp, meaningful guitar runs.
The band went the country route early on with a supple cover of Waylon Jennings' "Lonesome, Onry and Mean." The long instrumental interludes fit the band just fine with Boerner showcasing his axe skills.
He was aided and abetted by keyboardist Sam Fribush, who also played organ. Both had a lot of well-deserved face time as the band often stretched out the songs, letting the band play out ("Feeling Eternal" from their recent "Jump For Joy" release).
And then there was the rhythm section of drummer Nick Falk and drummer Alex Bingham. They may have always been in the background physically, but they anchored the music the entire night.
This was not an evening of noisy music, but a show created for the long haul. Hiss Golden Messenger made that clear early and often.
Fronted by Los Angeles native Ben Schwab, Sylvie opened the evening. The trio may have a well below the radar presence (no website will do that), but they more than made up for it in a show anchored by folky, neo-Laurel Canyon harmonies. The band's name comes from a song by late British folk band Matthews Southern Comfort, which they played midway through.
Schwab shared vocals with Keven Lareaux and Laura Jean Anderson while Lareaux and Schwab played acoustic guitar. With her vocal chops, Anderson provided an expressive contrast to her male counterparts. Credit as well for their own take of The Beatles' "Blackbird," closing out the set.