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I don’t care whether it’s a nationally-known platinum-selling group or a humble little band that has played local house shows for a couple years and recorded one EP, the break-up of a band is important news to the people who like its music. THE HARBOR LIGHTS were the latter sort of band, playing mostly around Philadelphia, with some tours of other parts of the country. This show was the final one of the duo’s existence, making it a bittersweet evening: a time to celebrate their music and say goodbye.
Dedicating nearly every song to someone who helped them out along the way, The Harbor Lights played a short but especially lovely set of their gentle, melancholy folk-pop duets. TIMOTHY MESKERS and LINDSEY ROETHKE sing beautifully together, and on this night, they were accompanied by a really complementary array of instruments played by members of opening band BRRR, including a muted trumpet and a cello.
Lit only by a few lamps, the Kensington South Forum—a room inside a converted factory—had a dark, gently glowing atmosphere that fit the music perfectly. It felt like a celebration, a memorable, even heartwarming, demonstration of what made the band special. Many of the song lyrics resonated well with the circumstances of the evening, from one song’s chorus, something along the lines of “I know it might sound slight / but don’t forget to write,” to the final lyric of the evening: “Let’s start a band / you write the words / and I’ll write the music / baby.”
While The Harbor Lights were there to say goodbye, the middle band on the bill was one that seems to be on an upward trajectory: the excellent Massachusetts-based pop trio PANTS YELL!. They’re on the road supporting the release of their new album Recent Drama (Asaurus). That album is a compact, energetic run through smart, moving, well-crafted songs, in the general vein of literate indie-pop of the past (think BELLE AND SEBASTIAN, Sarah Records, etc.) but youthful and vibrant, with their own style and demeanor, their own mix of the sad, sweet, and humorous.
Their set on this night was much the same, and that was a great thing. Drawing from Recent Drama and their other releases, they rocked out a solid, fun, completely enjoyable set. They played the great “Public Gardens” from their first album Songs for Siblings. They played all of my favorite Recent Drama songs (“Your Feelings Don’t Show” especially stood out). They played a dynamite version of THE YOUNG UNTOLD’s “We Came All the Way from King’s Cross” (off that band’s excellent self-titled EP), which was a nice surprise. Their performance was another fantastic example of why Pants Yell! is a band to which you should be paying more attention.
The show kicked off earlier in the evening with a set by Pennsylvania band Brrr, whose performance was also quite special. They play a hazy style of folk-pop, with introspective songs that have a friendly, meandering demeanor. The songs were presented in a full way that was especially rewarding, with trumpet and cello a welcome presence. And while BEAT HAPPENING’s “Indian Summer” might be an oft-covered song, Brrr’s version sounded so good.
The Beat Happening invocation also served as a reminder of how special music can be when musicians follow their own instincts and inclinations, something of which this entire night was a great example.
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