ELEL at Johnny Brenda’s, 3/2
Nashville indie pop collective ELEL and Richmond rockers Avers paid a visit to Johnny Brenda’s Monday night as part of their current tour. The two have been making their way down the East Coast towards warmer weather for the past several days. Monday’s stop may not have been a sold out show, but those who went were in for a real treat. On top of the pair of up-and-coming acts, local Carlisle trio Rivers joined the two to open the show.
Vincent, Joe and Matt, the three guys that make up Rivers, blend together rootsy folk tunes with melodic pop elements to a tune truly of their own. Vincent and Matt traded off on vocal duties throughout the night, while playing guitar and upright bass (respectively). Seated between them was their multi-percussionist, Joe, whose main instrument was a large wooden cajon. Each song took us out of the chilly winter and into hammock on a warm, summer day. Once their set was over, everything came crashing back to arctic reality.
For Avers this has not been their first time around Philly, or Johnny Brenda’s for that matter. It’s not even the first time we’ve reviewed a show of theirs. The last time we caught the Richmond group was a little over a year ago, playing with Geology, at the same venue they were at Monday night. They were a lively, energetic group the last time we saw them and were even better this time around.
The way Avers performed Monday night showed that they are poised for bigger stages. Comprised of members from The Head and The Heart, the Mason Brothers, Hypercolor and more, the six-piece group gelled together like they have been doing this for years. They ripped through a number of their cuts from last year’s debut Empty Light. Songs like “Harvest” and the title track from the album “Empty Light” displayed their strengths in fueling rock tunes with psych riffs. Despite being a bit cramped on stage, Avers ripped song after song and left us wanting even more.
Standing on stage before us, waiting for the members of ELEL to come on was a wall of synthesizers. Behind them, drums and a few amps. Like Avers, ELEL is a large group that features six people. On record they’re even bigger. Of all the shows we have seen at Johnny Brenda’s, ELEL may have taken the most efficient at using their space on stage. Even with the cramped conditions, it didn’t stop from them from dancing song after song.
ELEL, whom recently signed to Mom + Pop Records, do not have much currently in terms of a discography. Their debut release on their new label, a self-titled EP, was released the day after they played at Johnny Brenda’s. To add to that, they will also be releasing their first full length album later this summer. Monday night they treated those who came out to a number of songs off both releases.
If you had to sum up their entire night, it would be that ELEL are load with fun, genre-mashing dance tunes filled with complexity and pop hooks. Think Arcade Fire on a tropical vacation. Case in point, “When She Walks”. Summery vibes just ooze out of the song and if it doesn’t get you moving, you might want to check your pulse. Then there’s 80s-esque ballad “Change My World” with soft electric piano and subtle woodblock hits, it sends you away on your own musical cruise to the tropics. ELEL ended the night with their lead single “40 Watt”. Frontman Ben Elkins is joined with the rest of his band members in delivering one of the catchiest hooks we’ve ever heard. Things are already shaping up for 2015 to be a breakout year for ELEL and after seeing them Monday night we fully support them. There’s a to say about a melody that stinks with you as you are walking home on a chilly winter night, and ELEL and “40 Watt” has us doing just that!