By: Joseph Kathmann
Now on their second album, Indie synth-pop band CHVRCHES have been tearing up venues for a couple of years now. I was able to see the band at one such show at the LC Pavilion in Columbus, which happened to be one of the most memorable shows I have ever seen. The reason for the memorability, however, was not because of the band, but because of the weather. See LC Pavilion is an outdoor venue, and about two minutes into their set, it started raining. Hard. Not just raining, but an extremely severe storm hit us head on in the middle of that set. For whatever reason, the venue let the show play on, and seeing 1,500 people get over the fact that there's lightning and thunder every other second by falling in love with this band is an experience I won't soon forget. (At one point the thunder was so close it was louder than the band.) So, I was looking forward to seeing them again, and even though it was raining pretty good outside, the venue just had to be indoors. But I got over it.
Before I talk about the headliner, though, I have to compliment the opener. While they have a name that is very difficult to remember (and pronounce), opener Masionair was outstanding. Even though they will never be a mainstream success, I do believe they will garner at least a small cult following as time goes on. No one knew who this band was, but by the end of their unfortunately brief 30-minute set, most of the crowd was jamming out to their rather unique sound. This band reminded me a lot of The Antlers, delivering some very epic-feeling synth groves in the 5 or so songs they played. This is a band I hope sticks together for a while, because when they are in Nashville again I hope to see them, and hopefully for longer than a 30 minute set. This was my biggest complaint of the night. Masionair was clearly frustrated that they were only allowed to play for 30 minutes, and they made it clear that this decision was made by someone other than themselves. But then we sat there for 45 minutes waiting for CHVRCHES to go on. I've been a stagehand in the past. I know it does not take that long for any band to get ready for their set. There's no reason Masionair couldn't get a 40-45 minute set. But I digress.
So, after the uncomfortably long holdover, CHVRCHES took the stage. Accompanied by a very cool light show, entrancing frontwoman Lauren Mayberry & company took the crowd on an eventful journey spanning a 17 song set. While last time I was too focused on the music to realize it, I quickly realized that CHVRCHES is held up by Mayberry, and pretty much nothing else. Fellow bandmembers Iain Cook and Martin Doherty very much take a backseat on stage to the energy and vigor of Mayberry. But that's ok. She is more than capable of holding this band up and delivering the intensity you would expect a frontman to have.
Now you may have noticed that I haven't talked about the venue yet. Well that's because there isn't much to talk about. This venue, for better or for worse, feels like a very ordinary music venue. Though I will say their sound system more than handled the band's synthesizers, which is more than can be said for most. Anyway, the highlight of the night undoubtedly came in the form of an unexpected cameo from Paramore's Hayley Williams. This led to a very cool moment for the audience. After all it's not every day you get to see two of the most iconic frontwomen in the industry on stage at the same time. Sadly, Williams only joined the band for one song, a duet of "Bury It." And just like that, she danced off the stage and was gone.
But then the highest point of the show was inevitably followed by the lowest point of the show, as the band just had to bring bandmate Martin Doherty out into the limelight to perform one of the two songs he's recorded for the band on their two albums. Nowhere was the need for Mayberry more prevalent than during "Under the Tide." Doherty was....ok, but he just lacks the enduring charisma Mayberry brings to the set. Doherty just kind of ran around like a chicken with his head cut off with his extremely stereotypical male voice. That's the other thing. I've brought it up before in the review of Every Open Eye, but this band's greatest strength is using Mayberry's voice as an instrument. Take that away, and you've got an incredibly stereotypical synth-pop band. Fortunately, though, Doherty only performed one of his two songs, (the one off the first album instead of the second, for some reason) and Mayberry quickly took the stage again. They saved my current favorite song by them, "Clearest Blue," for the end of their pre-encore set, but I really wish they had closed with that song. For the encore the band came on and performed two songs, "Afterglow," which really should've been in the middle of the set somewhere, and one of their big hits "The Mother We Share." This song really should've ended the main set because "Clearest Blue" is definitely a set-ending song. You simply cannot follow that up, and the crowd was craving more when they came out on stage and performed the slow and mellow "Afterglow." But you can't have everything, right?
In conclusion, while CHVRCHES failed to deliver as memorable a set as they did the first time around, I didn't really expect them too. What I got was a refined set from one of the best indie synth-pop bands out there right now, and I even got a cameo from a long since established star. I won't complain about that for one second.
1) Never Ending Circles
2) We Sink
3) Keep You On My Side
5) Make Them Gold
6) Empty Threat
8) Playing Dead
11) Bury It (w/ Hayley Williams)
12) Under the Tide
14) Leave a Trace
15) Clearest Blue
17) The Mother We Share
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: