Bad Books performed at Doug Fir Lounge in Portland on Sunday, October 7th, the second show of the band’s fall tour. From left to right: Robert McDowell, Ben Homola, Kevin Devine, Jonathan Corley, Andy Hull, and Chris Freeman.
The Bad Books show in the cozy, subterranean Doug Fir had the feeling of a house show – a very respectful house show in the company of friends. The show itself was a bipolar ride, oscillating between comedy and serious music, in which the audience was included and very responsive.
Bad Books is a delectable treat to experience live with two amazing tunesmiths, Andy Hull and Kevin Devine, interweaving their personal styles and vocal ranges, backed by members of Manchester Orchestra (QRO live review) and drummer Ben Homola.
They opened with “The After Party” by Hull. The three powerful guitars paired with Devine’s harmonies plucked right at the heartstrings of a surprisingly hushed audience. Hull’s presence and delivery on stage is one of complete authenticity and connection to the songs. His openness to chat about his feelings on stage and personal life enhanced the intimacy of the songs.
Devine seemed to dance between seriousness and absolute play throughout. He would rock out, thrash his guitar around in complete joy, playing off of Homola on drums and Robert McDowell on guitar and then come to a dead standstill, and compose himself to move directly into a slow, serious song. They all moved effortlessly from slow, melodious ballads like “Pytor” straight into the highly charged rock intro of “No Sides”.
Songs like “No Sides” and “Holding Down the Laughter” took on a much more edgy rock vibe in the live setting. The Doug Fir, with its amazing sound and cozy intimacy, was the perfect place to experience the mellifluous harmonies of Hull and Devine.
Hull and Devine’s almost magical vocal layering became even more personal after experiencing their back and forth joking, bantering, and personal stories throughout the show. While Freeman kept everyone chuckling with his cricket and rooster calls, Hull admitted that Manchester Orchestra got his guts all tied up in knots whereas Bad Books is a place where he can play freely and have fun with his friends. Whether he said this before or after forgetting the words to “Pytor”, this music enthusiast can’t recall…
Bad Books playing “You’re a Mirror” live at Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR on October 7th, 2012:
Part music and part comedy, experiencing Bad Books in the flesh feels as though you’ve made new friends with them. One can scarcely believe that this was only their 11th live show together as a band. It’s one you ought to catch while they’re still playing the small venues. Who knows, you might even leave with a new friend or two.