Hallelujah the Hills + Ho-Ag at Great Scott, April 12, 2008
Hallelujah the Hills
For a few moments during Hallelujah the Hills’ EP release show on Saturday, everything seemed to dissolve into blissful madness. Members of HTH and Ho-Ag crammed simultaneously, almost comically, onto Great Scott’s tiny stage in a collision of bodies, instruments, blaring sounds and styles. It was the live-band equivalent of a clown car.
“I just want to be known as the guy who stuck an acoustic guitar into Ho-Ag,” said HTH frontman Ryan Walsh. It was a solid description of the resulting music: an odd amalgam of Ho-Ag’s thunderous thrashes with HTH’s Guided by Voices–derived cerebral lo-fi rock.
In their Venn-diagrammed form, the bands (“Hallelujah the Ho-Ag,” as they dubbed themselves) played guitar-clogged, brass-spiked covers of Tom Waits’s “Rain Dogs” and “Telstar,” the hit 1962 instrumental by British surf-rock band the Tornadoes, with space-agey electronic bleeps and occasional leaks of country-twinged guitar. HTH’s Brian Rutledge alternated between trumpet and trombone, Ho-Ag singer Matt Parish clapped his hands in a speedy blur, and maracas exchanged hands fluidly. Drummer Eric Meyer (who splits time between the bands) demonstrated impressive endurance through two consecutive sets (with no break). The whole night was like pizza with pineapple — surprisingly compatible.
HTH, whose seven-song Prepare To Qualify EP was made available for free download last week, write songs that feel familiar and unpretentious. (“Half the songs are anthems, and the other half make you want to dance,” blogger Jami Attenburg has written.) Yet their conceptual, writerly lyrics keep them from edging over to the Dropkicks’ side of the pub-rock continuum. This was apparent, despite the setting (a bar) and audience (beer drinkers), as they faded from Hallelujah the Ho-Ag into plain old HTH, with “Wave Backwards to Massachusetts,” then “Nurses 5 Float Past” (the lead track from Prepare To Qualify). And gradually, for both musicians and audience, there was a bit of room to breathe.
: Live Reviews
, Tom Waits, Brian Rutledge, Eric Meyer