Friday night I headed over to SubT to check out one of my favorite local bands, Molehill. They also happen to be one of my favorite live bands period, so I never miss the opportunity to catch a show. They took the headlining slot above three other groups-locals The Lauren Wolf Band and Blood Red Boots, along with Colombus, Ohio’s The Wet Darlings. I’d seen The Wet Darlings open for Molehill once before, and I was excited to see them again. I had never heard anything by either of the other two bands, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The Lauren Wolf Band kicked things off on a good note. They play a blues/soul combo that works best when it’s coming at you fast and hard. Wolf is a firecracker on stage, exploding with energy and commanding attention. She’s got the right attitude to be a brassy diva onstage. Their guitarist, Patrick Dugan, can really cut with that ax of his. He had some really impressive solos during the set. I enjoyed it all, but wish they had skipped the couple times when they slowed it down a bit. I don’t remember the name, but Lauren and Patrick sang a duet that would be good on a record, but wasn’t great in the context of the set. That said, I think they played ten songs and eight of them were good and I had fun watching them.
The Wet Darlings played next, and their set was plagued from the start. They were trying out a new keyboard live for the first time, and it didn’t work. It’s made to run through a laptop so they can play some newer songs that have synths in them, but something went wrong. They took a long time trying to fix it, but in the end they decided to just go without it and Jenny Lute was left to provide only vocals.
The set sounded good, even without the keys. Afterward their bassist Joe Patterson told me that he didn’t even have time to tune his instrument, but you couldn’t tell while they were playing. The band made the trip from Colombus in a snowstorm just for this show, so I was glad they at least got to play. They haven’t played a lot of shows lately, but they sounded as tight as ever. Guitarist Bill Patterson seemed the most on point, unleashing some hellish riffs. I also liked seeing Aaron Bishara on drums. He seems like the happiest guy ever. I think he was smiling the entire time they were playing.
After a quick set up, Blood Red Boots took to the stage. I knew nothing going in, but suddenly as they got ready I realized why this was an All Ages show. Every boy and girl with an “X” on their hand made their way toward the front of SubT for these guys. Usually I hate all ages shows, but these kids were well-behaved and I guess they have pretty good taste in music, because I really dug the tunes Blood Red Boots played.
Keith Patrick, the lead singer of the band, came out wearing a black leather jacket and a big scarf-classic frontman move. He’s at his best with the mic in his hand and the guitar put away. Not that he’s a bad guitarist, he just doesn’t look comfortable with it in his hands. His instrument is his voice, and he’s got some nice pipes to work with. He sounds a little Lennon-ish, which might be why the band I relate their music to is Razorlight. It’s a little dance-rocky, but dynamic enough to be interesting even to a passive listener.
Finally the time came for Molehill to play. I can’t remember for sure, but I think this was the seventh or eighth time I’ve seen them in the last three years. You would think that after that many shows, with a lot of the same songs being played, I’d get tired of them. Not the case at all. In fact, I’d say that the past two shows I’ve seen them do (this one and Beat Kitchen a few months ago) have been the best so far. They’ve had a year of playing everything off their latest album, Equinox, and now the shows are fairly seamless.
Each performance really rests on lead singer/guitarist Peter Manhart. He carries a heavy burden being the focal point of almost every song, but he takes it in stride. He’s got a frantic energy up on stage that doesn’t really come through when you’re talking to him face to face. His guitar work has been some of my favorite to see and hear live since moving to Chicago. He’s also made some great progress as far as being the face of the band-including banter with the audience and being an entertainer on top of a musician.
They played a couple new songs, but I think it was their cover of SBTRKT’s “Wildfires” that really stole the show. From talking to bass player Trevor Jones, I know there’s a certain obsession with finding great beats, and it doesn’t get much better than that. What’s amazing is that they have the technical proficiency to pull off something like that live. You can tell they are dedicated to their craft and probably spent countless hours working on getting it just right.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to catch Molehill live yet, do yourself a favor and get to their next show in your area. They have dates coming up in Milwaukee, Libertyville, Columbus and a few other midwest cities. Check out their tour dates here.