By Ann Marie Awad
Kids these days, man. Where do they get the nerve, playing old fashioned, head-bobbing rock ‘n roll to a full house? Where do they get the nerve, making music so good, you forget that none of them are over the age of 21?
That’s what I was left wondering Saturday night, ears ringing, after Hartle Road and The Chambers renewed my faith in today’s youth.
When Hartle Road took the stage (er, living room) at Lagniappe Records’ intimate shop, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When frontman Toby Hartleroad wryly asked the audience, “Who here’s a fan of Anna Karenina?” to no response, other than a couple of cocked heads, he decided instead to ditch the humor and go with what he’s good at. It was then he strummed the first few notes of “Sainte Marie,” dripping with reverb, craned over the mic and, with a throaty croon, sang the first few words. Though I knew the night’s acts were all youngins, it was around this time I decided that it didn’t matter. They were good.
The four-piece Mississippi outfit is something of a family affair (the lead man and drummer are brothers, the bassist is their cousin. Tyler Carter, on the keys, is the only one not related). Having just put out their self-titled EP last month, produced by Drive-By Truckers bassist Matt Patton, they’ve been playing shows all over their home state, with this one stop in Baton Rouge. It’s unclear when they’ll be back again, but based on their performance Saturday, it can’t be soon enough.
They played a spirited set, often times ending songs with moaning, yipping and howling, jumping up and down. Their sound is an erratic mix of solid classic rock flavors like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, along with more recent sounds like Surfer Blood and Girls, with their own brand of melancholy madness holding it all together. Frontman Toby’s swagger is well-deserved – his voice is smooth and bluesy, and shines through particularly on a breathy, sorrowful song like “Pe-Paw.”
As the boys of Hartle Road filed off, Baton Rouge duo The Chambers took their place. I know I said I was going to forget about ages, but I feel the need to say before going any further that lead singer and guitarist Alex Abel and drummer Jordan Farho are both still in high school.
And they were also really, really good.
From what I gather, The Chambers subsist on a healthy diet of surf rock, metal and that hard-to-name breed of fast-paced post-Arctic Monkeys rock and roll. They alternate between toe-tapping, dance-inducing sounds to dark, brooding and metallic. Abel is an unfairly talented guitar player and Farho is a merciless drummer. In between singing in his signature falsetto wail, Abel stomps around on bare feet, hunching over Farho’s drums for a moment before tearing into his strings once more, whipping his hair back and forth before returning to sink his teeth into the mic. According to the band’s Facebook, Abel often plays so hard his fingers bleed all over his guitar during shows.
Abel and Farho often take breaks to play instrumental covers, (in part, I’m sure, to rest Abel’s voice) like serrated versions of “Secret Agent Man” and the Tetris theme song. They close out their set with a few surf rock mainstays, including a thrashing version of The Surfaris’ famous “Wipeout.”
It all goes to show that talent knows no age. And it doesn’t take age to recognize it either. The crowd that night at Lagniappe Records was a broad range, from The Chambers’ classmates to folks in their 30s and 40s. Even Abel’s mom was rocking out on the porch.