The Lumineers

Grammys: The Lumineers and Alabama Shakes

by oz on February 10, 2013

Let’s all wish The Lumineers and Alabama Shakes good luck tonight at the Grammys! Incredible to see their rise over the last year and we’re really grateful that they made it in for live sessions with us. Two of my favorite sessions we’ve ever done with great people deserving of all the accolades.

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I just watched Gary Clark Jr. on Good Morning America and had a flashback to SxSW where I saw him at an outdoor venue with a about a hundred people. He’s a brilliant guitar player and seeing him on the most watched morning show that typically caters to the Katie Perry crowd gave me tremendous hope. There’s a groundswell of great music that may finally reach more ears and influence a better taste in music among our population.

Although Gary’s success story is great, he’s also on Warner Bros Records, giving him an unfair advantage relative to most rising artists. That’s what makes The Lumineers story so incredible. They self-released an EP and then signed to indie label, Dualtone Music Group, for the official release of their self-titled debut early this year. I raved about the album back in April, calling them the next Avett Brothers or Mumford and Sons – not so much in sound but in their propensity to find a similar success and a huge audience. And they thankfully they did.

What I love about their story is that it was organic. “Ho Hey” started getting radio play. Fans started telling other fans. Shows started selling out. I witnessed first-hand the demand for The Lumineers in Kansas City – not the easiest town to sellout shows. They played their first show at a small venue here called The Riot room and it sold out. To put this in perspective, I’ve seen other artists that sellout in Chicago play to a crowd of 20-50 in KC. During their next pass through Kansas, they booked a similar sized venue in Lawrence called The Bottleneck and the demand for tickets required moving the show to the much bigger Liberty Hall.

This all happened over what seemed like a couple months and not long after they played our SxSW party in Austin to a tiny crowd on a stage in a parking lot, where they finished the set offstage in the crowd. Things were moving so fast after SxSW, we were afraid they might bail on our live session.  But they didn’t and we treasure it. I can’t say any more than I already have about their album and its importance, but as the year draws to a close, The Lumineers story gives me hope. These are the bands I want my kids to listen to one day – authentic music, written by the artists and performed with genuine enthusiasm and a sense of community with their fans.

The Lumineers just released a tour video for “Stubborn Love” that captures the roller coaster year. Let’s all raise a glass to their success.

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The Lumineers – Riviera 9/20

by Woody on September 21, 2012

Six months ago, I stood in the back of The Beauty Bar in Austin and The Lumineers strutted out in the crowd and finished an electric set that left me buzzing as I strolled across Austin. Since then, their music has been featured in commercials, my wife plays them almost nightly and I had almost become tired of them. It was to the point that I wasn’t totally fired up to go to the show last night.

I had voiced my concerns about where they would be going on the second album. My biggest concern would be some producer coming and over-producing them; stripping them of the charm that makes them so enjoyable.

Last night squashed any of those fears. Playing to a sold out Riviera Theatre as opposed to a 100 people in backyard made no difference to them. The interaction with the crowd was no different and Neyla was still smiling as bright as ever. And while wading into the crowd at The Riv would be near impossible. They still managed to get out in the crowd when they hit the balconies for a tune. They then tied a bow on the night with a great version of The Weight. All in all a great night from a great band. Can’t wait to see where they go from here.

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I have a demanding day job that has me flying around the country regularly. Conversations with strangers at airport bars or on flights lead to the “what do you do for a living?” question, usually uttered within 5 minutes of meeting someone. 20% of the time the conversation lasts long enough for me to mention that I moonlight as a music blogger. The general reaction is “Oh, like a music critic?” My typical response back is “No, more like a music evangelist.”

Unlike critics, we operate under the “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything” mantra and our purpose is purely to share the music we love. I have a bad habit though. When I fall completely in love with an album, I turn on friends and family but I procrastinate in putting my fingers to the keys. It’s probably a coping mechanism for a common fear among average-at-best music journalist wanna-bes like me. I know that whatever mediocre words I produce won’t accurately reflect my appreciation and adoration for the music. It’s sometimes impossible to express how I feel listening to a song or attending a concert. Such is the case with The Lumineers and their self-titled debut. I wanted to write something prior to the release date, but weeks later, here I am, writing what’s already just stream of consciousness rambling.

I mentioned late last year that The Lumineers were a band to watch out for in 2012. I told friends and family that they’d be this year’s Head and The Heart; possibly reaching the popularity of Mumford and Sons. I’m not tracking the buzz enough to know where they stand outside of my circles, but the quality of this album and band is undeniable. They were formed out of tragedy. The seeds of the band came together in 2002 after a 19 year old named Josh Fraites died from a drug overdose in Jersey. Josh’s lifelong best friend (Wesley Shultz) and his younger brother (Jeremiah) played music to combat the hurt. Later, they packed up their belongings, left New York for Denver and a Craigslist connection later, a cellist (Neyla Pekarek) was added and The Lumineers were born.

The album starts with short acoustic ditty called “Flowers In Your Hair” that could survive with nothing other than the fingerpicking and vocals.  A minute in, however, the percussion jumps in and the tempo picks up. Thirty seconds later the cello makes its appearance with a few notes before the song ends with an abruptness that left me yearning for more. “Classy Girls” follows with a similar format. Starts off sparse with conversations in the background, then you’ll find the tempos change, instruments come and go, and hand claps join the fray.

Two songs later, a sing-a-long track called “Dead Sea” rolls along with the cello at its epicenter. It slowly builds to a crescendo at 3:20 when everything stops and Wesley adds a little Righteous Brothers inspired vocal transition. But my jaw dropped when hearing the single, “Ho Hey.” The sharp HO and HEY vocals punctuate the song throughout; a song that is a contradiction. It masquerades as a feel-good celebration, but the lyrics point to lost love, a missed opportunity and eternal regret:

(Ho!) I’ve been trying to do it right
(Hey!) I’ve been living a lonely life
(Ho!) I’ve been sleeping here instead
(Hey!)I’ve been sleeping in my bed,
(Ho!) I’ve been sleeping in my bed (Hey!)

(Ho!)

Verse 2:
(Ho!) So show me family
(Hey!) All the blood that I would bleed
(Ho!) I don’t know where I belong
(Hey!) I don’t know where I went wrong
(Ho!) But I can write a song (Hey!)

Chorus:

1,2,3 I belong with you, you belong with me you’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me you’re my sweet (Ho!)

(hey!)
(ho!)
(hey!)

Verse 3:

(ho!) I don’t think you’re right for him
(hey!) Look at what it might have been if you
(ho!) Took the bus to china town
(hey!) I’ve been standing on Canal
(ho!) And Bowery (hey!)
(ho!) And she’d be standing next to me (hey!)

Chorus:

1,2,3 I belong with you you belong with me you’re my sweet heart
I belong with you, you belong with me you’re my sweet heart

And love we need is now
Let’s hope for some
Cause oh, we’re bleeding out

Chorus:
I belong with you you belong with me you’re my sweet heart
I belong with you you belong with me you’re my sweet (Ho!)

Hopefully you’ve purchased the album by now.  If not, listen to “Stubborn Love” and “Big Parade.”  This is as complete and rich as any debut I’ve heard in years.

The Lumineers played at our SXSW party this year in Austin – my first live experience with them. If you see the band, be prepared to be an active participant instead of a casual observer. Their shows are a communal experience where choruses, and sometimes physical space, are shared between band and crowd. At our event, the band left the stage to perform in the crowd, leaving us all with a favorite moment of SXSW 2012.

Music was a catharsis to Wes and Jer after losing a loved one, but the album and every one of their performances feels like a celebration – often in spite of the lyrics. The Lumineers are a reminder that even when love or a loved one is lost, or if we’re hopeless or filled with regret, it’s always great to be alive. And life is worth celebrating.

Catch them on tour and keep an eye out for an upcoming HearYa Live Session with The Lumineers.

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The Lumineers and Buxton. Two bands to look for in 2012

December 23, 2011

There are two unreleased albums competing for my attention right now and I’m sure both will be making a splash in 2012. Denver is now home to The Lumineers after migrating from NYC and the band’s debut self-titled album is going to be released in March. Are you a fan of The Head and The […]

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