Live Review: Houndmouth @ The Kentucky Theater, Lexington KY (9/18)

unnamedIndiana Americana band Houndmouth made its way through Lexington, Kentucky last night at The Kentucky Theater. The show was put on by the University of Kentucky’s Student Activities Board.

When I arrived, opener Andrea Davidson was on stage performing and while the crowd wasn’t in the palm of her hand, she managed to break through the talking and earn attention with her personality. She’s a Kentucky native who has just moved to Nashville, and got the crowd going by being so excited for her return home.

The highlight of her time on stage came with her last song. She explained her new fascination with the history of hemp, and got the crowd clapping there alone. The lights transitioned to a low green on stage and Davidson fired up her tongue in cheek finale, “Let It Grow”.

Fifteen minutes or so passed and then it was time for the headliner of the night. Houndmouth arrived on stage to a warm response from the familiar crowd. They asked how everyone was doing then asked if everyone was cool with hearing a new song from their recently finished second album.

Of course, everyone was cool with that.

It started the show out with good energy that only escalated when the familiar From the Hills Below the City opener “On the Road” followed. Houndmouth’s packed house roared at recognizing the keyboard thumping and guitar riffing. The song inspired hands in the air and singing aloud, just the type of energy you imagine from Houndmouth live when you hear them on CD. “On the Road” was made even better by abruptly breaking into “Krampus” midway through.

The band had the crowd in their hands but decided to loosen their grip for a “sing-a-long for you all” with an intimate “Houston Train”. Katie Toupon, keyboard player and vocalist, owned the song on the dark stage with bluesy guitar playing from front man Matt Myers.

Next, we were rewarded with another new song which would go on to be one of five new songs in the night. This song had some interesting new sounds for the band that worked great. There was a whimsical keyboard sound bouncing behind the grinding guitars and plummeting lyrics. The performance just snowballed with energy with its fast pace and high energy, the band jumping around and jamming it out hard on stage. The song sang about “those Saturday nights,” when your “cash is gone, credit’s no good.” But just like they sang, they “flipped the script” and made a hell of a good time out of it.

Houndmouth really had a knack for assembling their set list just right to accommodate the energy they wanted to evoke. Just like their On the Road > Krampus performance, the new previous new song suddenly launched into a highlight of the night, an extra loud “Ludlow” that felt just loud enough. Many of the songs from the band’s debut album just ask to be yelled back in unison, and this show really got that aspect of things right.

Once again, we settle down with a slower pace. This time with another new song, a unique slow jam love song. It’s something we’ve never heard from the band, but I assure you that you can start looking forward to hearing it yourself. Sharp guitar playing was surrounded by heavenly organs as the band suggested, “Have a drink on me.”

The best song of the night was “Hey Rose”, the wild bar stomping dance song sang by bassist Zak Appleby. Expectedly, it was really high energy because of how fast it is, but no one could have predicted the guitar solo that dropped everyone’s jaws along with Matt Myers himself to the floor in absolute unison with his guitar playing. After the solo rode out, drummer Shane Cody reeled everyone back in with a drum filled that screamed, “We’re fucking shit up.” This all amounts to a final chorus before letting go of the death grip they’ve held on the crowd.

“Come On, Illinois’” only downfall was that it never felt quite loud enough until the peak of the song right before its end, but that’s my personal favorite from their debut, so that could be picky.

The band did a little rearranging after this song, during which Cody shared some of his original plans for the night.

“I was gonna wear a Louisville jersey,” Cody announced, to several boos. “Wait, wait, wait,” he asked. “Let me finish. I was going to wear that, let you all boo me, then rip it off with a UK jersey on underneath to win you all back.”

He won everyone back right then.

Now that they’re set up was appropriate for another new song, Cody asked that the crowd “bear with him” because this was the first time they had played many of the new songs.

They finished their set with three new songs in a row. Each one killed with its own identity and unique style. If there is anything to take away from this show looking forward, it’s that Houndmouth’s sophomore album will be varied and excellent.

I can’t say enough about how enjoyable this show was. For only $5, I can’t imagine getting much more out of a night. Houndmouth’s excellent southern rock only translated better in person, and I recommend you catch them anywhere you can soon. Chances are, that’ll be sooner than later, because Houndmouth is on the rise quickly.

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