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GURNETT: herMajesty delivers to Mohawk crowd

On Friday, November 3rd, as I searched downtown Buffalo for Mohawk Place, I may have slipped into a wormhole that sent me back to a new wave concert from the ‘80s… and it was delightful.

First up was Monogold. I enjoyed almost everything about them -- except the vocals. Oh, the vocals. The band has a unique sound that reminded me of a mix between Death Cab for Cutie, Bombay Bicycle Club (who I recommend) and Band of Horses. The rhythm section was completely synced while still having a relaxed feeling. The guitar soared. And then came the rock-and-roll falsetto. I could write an entire piece on why the rock-and-roll falsetto should die, but for now I’ll just focus on why it didn’t work here. It was out of tune in places and simply irritating in others. Several concertgoers afterward gave me the same critique: the band was great, but the vocals missed the mark. It was a shame they distracted from what was otherwise a solid performance.

The evening had a solid uptick when The Heroic Enthusiasts took the stage. The band’s atmospheric brand of new wave is upbeat but moody, with an obvious Echo and the Bunnymen influence. Lead vocalist James Tabbi was charismatic, dancing and emoting through the entire set. Thomas Ferrara’s guitar had an intricacy and mellow blues vibe on par with The Police’s Andy Sumner. The rhythm section, Anthony Molina and Mike James, was tight and funky. I’d recommend keeping an eye out for this Rochester-based band; they’re a fun time.

By the time The Heroic Enthusiasts’ great set was done, I was really excited about New York City-based herMajesty (who you can read about in my previous post here). Looking like a new wave Tim Armstrong and channeling the manic energy of Devo, lead vocalist JP commands attention the second he’s behind a mic. You can instantly tell how heartfelt his vocals are and how genuine is his desire to make sure everyone in the crowd is having a good time. His soaring vocals instantly reminded me of Peter Gabriel, with a good chunk of David Bowie mixed in. The songwriting is solid, with dreamy lyrics punctuated with thunderous, anthemic choruses. The crowd at Mohawk Place loved it.

Lead guitarist David Leatherwood provided a dark, moody feel to songs like “Turn to You.” Combining thick reverb with jangly chords, his style falls somewhere between U2’s The Edge and REM’s Peter Buck. Both David and bassist Joan Chew provided more backing vocals than I’d expect from the genre. Their rich harmonizing lent added atmosphere to the already haunting sound. Joan’s playing provided a low thump with pretty, precise walking bass lines and syncopated rhythms that drove the rest of the band, while drummer Josh Shusterman laid a steady path for them to follow.

herMajesty put on a virtuosic, exciting set. They told me they love playing at Mohawk Place, so hopefully they’ll be coming to town again soon. Whether you’re a new wave fan or not, I recommend coming to see them. Their intimate performance isn’t the kind of thing you can see here every day, and at $5 to get in, plus plenty of great deals on drinks, it’s one of the least expensive Friday nights out you can have.

Check out herMajesty’s music at www.soundcloud.com/herMajestyny. Their recorded material is just as good as it is live. And keep an eye out for them in the future; they’re doing some beautiful things with their music.

Ryan Gurnett has a B.S. in Music Industry from The College of St Rose. He has worked as a studio engineer, live sound engineer, producer and sound editor and has been a musician for 25 years. He is currently the bassist for The Lady, or the Tiger?. Email him at SirWilliamIdol@gmail.com or find him on Twitter @SirWilliamIdol.

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