Union Transfer was filled with fans of Houndmouth, eager to witness the alternative country-blues band’s live debut of their new album “Golden Age” Feb. 21
The Indiana-based band’s third album, “Golden Age,” comes three years after their critically acclaimed album “Little Neon Limelight.” This album included hits such as “Sedona,” which has over 78 million plays on Spotify. “Little Neon Limelight” can be categorized as an Americana album, following stylistic choices usually found in country or folk music, such as simple ballads and guitar-led harmonies.
“Golden Age” expands upon the group’s previous Americana country sound and incorporates a more technological approach to alternative country music by utilizing synthesizers, heavy background bass and drum beats.
The concert had two opening acts before Houndmouth performed, the first of which was Modern Love Child. The artist, whose real name is Jonny Shane Jr., came out on stage wearing comical orange sunglasses and was followed by his drummer. As an alternative rock group vocalist, Modern Love Child’s voice is definitely an unexpected one. As he began singing, his high-range voice immediately stood out to the audience.
Besides his uniqueness as a vocalist, much of Modern Love Child’s performance was predictable. The music was not terribly original, and it relied on pre-recorded tracks as there were only two artists on stage, one of whom was barely playing guitar between vocals. Most of the songs performed mourned a loss of childhood and were paired with odd dance moves by the sunglass-clad performer. Overall, I believe that Modern Love Child is definitely an acquired taste and was not necessarily a good fit as a live opener considering Houndmouth’s particular music style. Modern Love Child finished the performance by promoting their album, which will be released next October.
After watching Modern Love Child, I did not have particularly high hopes for the second opener, Ben Kweller. Little did I know, Kweller is actually an indie rock and indie folk artist who was quite popular throughout the early 2000s. He promoted his newest 2019 album, “Circuit Boredom,” even giving out free CDs after the show.
Kweller’s performance was varied and showed off his many musical talents. His first song was “Mean to Me,” a rock song with a heavy electric guitar solo in the middle of it. During his performance, some fans threw a hat onto the stage, and Kweller proceeded to ask why they would throw a hat with “Oklahoma” knit into it. The fans responded that it was their home state, and they were happy to finally see him live. This interaction definitely highlighted the community aspect of shows like this, where the audience is all coming together in support of talented bands.
Later in his setlist, Kweller sat down at a piano and began his performance of “Thirteen,” a melancholy love song from his 2006 album that featured his playing of harmonica and piano at the same time. Overall, Kweller’s talents in several different genres of music with multiple instruments definitely made his performance a memorable one.
Finally, Houndmouth emerged to cheers from the crowd, who had waited through two openers for this moment. The band opened with “Ludlow,” a country blues song from their first album. The group continued through their setlist with little dialogue, going from one song into the next only speaking to introduce guest guitar or saxophone players. The songs played came from various Houndmouth albums; there was not a particular focus on the group’s newest album. In fact, more songs were played from “Little Neon Limelight” than “Golden Age.” This was not upsetting to the audience, as many were more familiar with the older albums and were able to loudly sing along to their favorite songs.
Throughout the middle of the setlist, newer songs like “Modern Love” and “Coast to Coast” were played to the enjoyment of more dedicated fans. The new songs paired well with older ones, making the setlist cohesive and greatly enjoyable to everyone. When “Sedona” started up, everyone in the audience was dancing and singing along, united by a love of this song. I personally found Houndmouth’s live performance to be better than the recorded versions, as hearing the combination of saxophone and guitar live was interesting and different from the recorded versions of the songs.
After returning for their encore, Houndmouth’s lead vocalist, Matt Myers, exclaimed “Alright, it’s time for us to begin the show now!” The encore consisted of three songs, all from “Little Neon Limelight.” The band then thanked the audience for being there to support them and ended the show with the song “My Cousin Greg,” an upbeat country song about the perils of fame.
Despite the concert’s rough start, it was an enjoyable experience overall. Kweller wowed the audience with his various musical talents, Houndmouth performed a great set of songs spanning between all three of their albums, and everyone in the audience seemed to really have a good time throughout the show. If Houndmouth were to go on tour again, I would definitely recommend that any alternative country or folk fans buy a ticket to see them live.