While it's fun to see a band at almost any stage of their career (the "hey-remember-us-we-used-to-be-famous" comeback tour frequently being the exception to this rule), for my money, bands are often the most interesting to watch when they're just on the cusp of making it big - they've got their sound nailed down, but they haven't had their creative edge dulled by the trappings of fame. And if you want a perfect example of this, you need look no further than Dan Croll's show at Holocene this Sunday.
If you're wondering whether or not you've heard Dan Croll before, there's a decent chance that you have. Their single "From Nowhere" (vaguely reminiscent of Minus The Bear's "My Time" - and equally as catchy) was a Slice of New Music Heaven on 94/7 earlier this year, and more recently they've been featured on the video game soundtracks for FIFA 14 and Grand Theft Auto V.
Despite the distraction of a gorgeously sunny October afternoon, a small but enthusiastic crowd was on hand at Holocene to greet the Liverpool quintet and local openers, Blue Skies For Black Hearts, who kicked things off with a retro-flavored set that combined sixties-style harmonies and guitar riffs with Elvis Costello-like vocals. While Blue Skies For Black Hearts took a fairly straight-forward, retro approach, Dan and his bandmates (most of whom have been friends since they were teenagers) followed that up with a more modern, eclectic set - blending toe-tapping percussion and synth-work with funky guitar riffs and Dan's signature, somewhat ethereal, vocals (on some of their slower songs, you could almost mistake him for an English Paul Simon). There's also a certain world-music vibe to the band; while Liverpool may have similar weather to Portland, on songs like "Compliment Your Soul" and "In/Out", the band sounds like they're headlining the world's most awesome beach party - and it's a sound that works for them.
Halfway through their first US tour, it's also quite apparent that Dan and Company haven't lost their enthusiasm for performing, either: the band members frequently traded quips in between songs, and when the crowd's enthusiasm for their music exceeded the band's rehearsed material, they gamely improvised a short encore, as well.
Dan Croll may be Liverpool's best-kept secret, but not for long. While Portlanders may not be familiar with their name, Dan and his mates are definitely making waves in the industry. Following a much-lauded appearance earlier this year at SXSW, the band was recently asked to perform at this month's Austin City Limits festival, and later this year, they'll be spending time on tour with both Bastille and Imagine Dragons.
This is definitely a band that's going places- the only real question is: how soon can we get them back in Portland?