JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

January 30, 2013
DAR Constitution Hall
Washington, DC USA
Review by Jeff DeFord
Photos by Craig Hunter Ross

The Lumineers

I honestly had no idea what to expect when I settled in to watch the hip thing at the moment, The Lumineers. Maybe I was drawn to the DAR Convention Center because the moniker of the band is extremely cool. If you didn't know any better, you would think this Denver trio was named after a Stephen King novel. But I'd be lying if I didn't say I was here for one reason, and one reason only - the hypnotic draw of the band's massive hit single, "Ho Hey".

What people are craving for the most these days is music without fanfare or drama. Music, when done right, doesn't need dancing or any type of overproduction other than simple amplification to get the message across. Today, nobody is doing it better than musicians Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites and Neyla Pekarek. Besides, who can resist seeing a band who found the third member of their tribe through a listing on Craig's List?

Let's face it! The Lumineers are THE thing to do right now. And make no mistake, this sold out crowd buzzing with excitement in anticipation of what was about to happen on stage. That in itself is dangerous because often times hype outweighs reality. And when a group only has one album on its resume, anchored heavily by one superb song, there's a danger the entire show can sink, rather than swim, once the show gets into full swing.

But here's the real deal about this group. A couple of radio stations took a chance on this Indie band and decided to play one of their songs, "Ho Hey". One day, the group received an offer from Microsoft to license 30 seconds of said song to help promote their Bing service. Thousands heard a snippet of the tune and were intrigued. The thing is, it wasn't tweeting or social networking that fascinated the public at large. It was the honestly of the music and the message. Fans couldn't stop spreading the word. Today, they were the talk of the town.

The evening started with the alt-Indie seven-piece Latin band, Y La Bamba. This Portland, Oregon based group is touring behind last year's release, Court The Storm. Though it seemed an odd choice for an opening act, this audience was instantly captivated by singer Luzelena Mendoza's haunting vocals. Her performance alone held a grip on the crowd the entire 30 minutes the band was onstage. The songs were obviously flavored with Latin-tinged rhythms, but it was the melodies that were especially mesmerizing as they worked in perfect harmony with Mendoza's vocals. There was no doubt that once the band left the stage, people instantly grabbed their cell phones to find out more about this unique band. Y La Bamba really was that good, especially the tracks "Squawk" and "Bendito". .

Okay, I've gone into a lengthy recap to talk about The Lumineers because their show was rather short as far as headliners go. Their 15-song set list included every song on their 38:31 second album, and included covers of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues' and the Talking Heads "This Must Be the Place", which ended the show. Y La Bamba was even invited back on stage to help the band with "Stubborn Love". Throw in a little bit of talking in-between songs and you get an idea of how the show proceeded. So yes, there were points in the show that dragged on. In the end, nobody really cared.

It was understandable, and at the same time quite surprising, that the Lumineers actually performed their hit single, "Ho Hey", not once, but two times this evening. The first version came early, and was done "a capella" (with considerable input from the audience, which knew every word). The second time caught the audience totally by surprise when the instrumental version of the tune emanated from the stage. I thought it was an extremely clever move for the band to do this. You never, and I mean NEVER, hear a band play their hit song twice in a single outing. This crowd knew it was a rare occurrence too. They ate up the chance to sing "Hey Ho" again with the band, and it was quite a sight to behold. It was a ballsy move by The Lumineers that paid off.

A band like The Lumineers aren't flashy on stage, don't dance, and they certainly wouldn't be caught wearing designer clothes on or off stage. They undercharge on their concert tickets and do everything detractors say you cannot. The music is direct and lacks clutter. The easygoing arrangements and Schultz's whimsical lyric-writing are strong indicators this band doesn't take themselves nearly as serious as others would think. The audience took note of that wonderful attribute of The Lumineers. It endeared them even more to the cause. Ho hey indeed.