A Ways to Go, No Longer - Grouplove & The Rubens at Star Theater
by Yume Delegato,posted Sep 16 2013 10:08AM
Hot on the heels of an epic week at MusicFestNW, a few hundred Portlanders braved record temperatures to crowd into the Star Theater for Wednesday's sold-out show with Grouplove and The Rubens.
Show openers The Rubens have enjoyed moderate success in their native Australia, and this US tour with Grouplove will no doubt determine if America welcomes them with open arms or not. Musically, they're not bad - they have a nice, bluesy sound that's surprisingly melodic for modern alt-rock, their single "My Gun" is catchy, and I really enjoyed the riffs on "The Day You Went Away." However, hearing them live was a little bit of a disappointment. Lead singer Sam Margin's vocals were often breathy where they should have rocked, and the crowd's response seemed rather tepid.
Ohhhh, Australia. If I had a dollar for every talented Australian act I've heard that just doesn't quite click with American audiences... well, I'd have at least enough cash to buy a jar of Vegemite.
There was no such equivocation from the crowd when Grouplove finally took the stage, however. Despite the sweltering atmosphere (almost everyone around me seemed to be fishing scraps of paper out of their pockets and purses in an attempt to craft fans for themselves) and a rather lengthy delay between acts, the crowd went nuts the minute the band stepped into the spotlight. For the next hour or so, the Los Angeles quintet held everyone at The Star Theater in rapt attention with their high energy antics. Style-wise, Grouplove probably wins the award for the most eclectically outfitted band I've ever seen - the group's fashion inspirations seem to be drawn from Nirvana, Dee-Lite, Jethro Tull and Aldus Snow, all in equal measure, and singer Hannah Hooper never stopped dancing or stood still for more than two seconds at a time.
Prior to attending this concert, I was actually a little skeptical about seeing Grouplove live. Sure, I had heard "Tongue Tied" (along with everyone else in America) when it was featured in that Apple commercial, and I liked songs like "Colours," "Itchin' on a Photograph" and the more recent "Ways To Go" (which almost sounds like a Len track) well enough - but each single the group released sounded almost as though it was from a different band. Just based on what's gotten airplay, I had begun to wonder if Grouplove hadn't succeeded in crafting a consistent sonic identity, yet. However, it only took about five minutes to dispel that notion. Live, each of their songs transitions into one another seamlessly, and they manage to maintain the same frenzied, pop energy with each song - as though they were leading the most epic sing-along ever.
I am a skeptic no longer. Although they may sing that they've "Got a Ways To Go," it's not true - Grouplove is one act that's definitely arrived.
(All of the love.)
**Photographer Andrew Walsh caught Grouplove's acoustic set the next night at Alberta Rose Theater - check out his snaps!