By Keeyahtay Lewis
Sometimes I go to a show and I have almost no idea of what to expect. Friday March 2nd was one of those nights. I was at the historic Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ to cover Lights. I knew she was pretty. I knew she had tattoos. I knew she played keyboards. I had heard a couple songs. That is where my knowledge stopped. I really didn’t know what to expect. The show was sold out which I knew would mean that it would be absolutely packed inside. The line around the corner in the cold affirmed that for me. It was going to be a sweaty night.
I wasn’t even sure who was opening so while I was waiting I talked to some of the kids in the crowd. I was told that Ambassadors were opening. I asked around how they were/what they sounded like. More often than not I got an answer like this: “They are, um…they sound like…? I don’t know, but they are really awesome.” I was ready to go. Shortly after 4 guys took the stage. One heavily bearded, led another, clearly blind guy, over to the keyboards. Right in front of the microphone was a single drum, and the bearded guy took his spot behind the drum. I was intrigued. Brooklyn born and bred, these guys were clearly ready to take over the room.
I will say right now, since this was my first time hearing them, I am not sure of what songs they played. But I will say this, I haven’t been that impressed with a group I have never heard of in quite some time. Led by Sam Harris, with his brother Casey Harris on keyboards. Backed up by Noah Feldshuh on guitar and Adam Levin on drums. Even after seeing them it is hard to say what they sound like. 2 and 3 part harmonies abound. Sam’s vocals are really powerful and memorizing. At times they reminded me of Kings of Leon. At other times, Bon Iver. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what they sound like, but that is certainly a good thing. Sam spent most of his time singing as well as playing drums. For a couple songs he strapped on a bass guitar. Noah sounded great singing behind him, playing some incredible slide guitar here and there. The crowd was obviously into it,and judging by those singing along, it was clear that a lot of kids in the room had seen this band before. Afterwards I was able to pick out some of the titles of what they were playing. “Bodybag” and “Keys” were definitely two of them. At one point Sam said they were going to play a new song, “Litost” was that song. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Again, I cannot stress how much I liked them. I guess the best testament is that I bought 2 of their CDs and I have been steadily listening to them for the last week. I absolutely cannot wait to see them again. They will be opening for Lights for her whole tour and I have no doubt that they will be headlining their own soon.
Lights took the stage shortly after Ambassadors left it, and the place erupted. Flanked by 4 separate keyboards, as well as 2 band members playing keyboards, and a drummer. In person, Lights is tiny. Really tiny. Dressed in a tank top and jean vest, smiling from ear to ear, she opened with “Banner”, “Fourth Dimension”, and one of the songs I actually knew, “Ice.” On record her voice sounds a bit slight to me. Live though, that is definitely not the case. When she opens her mouth it took me by surprise that someone so small could sound so powerful.
The lights danced around the stage while, well, Lights danced around the stage. Switching from one keyboard to the next. The Stone Pony was in the mood to dance that night, and Lights certainly made that possible. Just when I thought I knew which way a song would go, all of a sudden Dub Step beats would drop in out of nowhere and everyone would go crazy. Different from Skrillex, but definitely Dub Step nonetheless. I think it kept everyone on their toes, and it definitely kept me interested. “Everybody Breaks a Glass” was definitely a stand out for me. “Siberia”, “My Boots”, “Flux”, “Last Thing”. Judging by the reaction every single song was a hit with the crowd.
Her set was 15 songs deep and she definitely mixed it up and kept things interesting. She had a couple quiet moments, but those moments didn’t last long. “Fences” and “Toes” were her 3rd and 2nd to last songs and they were clear hits. She closed with “Romance Is” and from the reactions and comments it was a clear and thrilling surprise to her fans. She left the stage with thank yous and smiles and everyone started making their way to the doors.
I left Asbury Park feeling pumped up about what I had just seen. Sometimes we go into things with notions of how we know things will go. It was nice to have no idea what I was in for and to be blown away by what I saw. Ambassadors and Lights left everything they had on the stage, and I think most of the audience did as well. If you have never heard Ambassadors before, stop reading this and look them up. And if you think you know what Lights will sound like based on a few songs here and there, go check her out. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Two incredible bands back to back. Definitely a tour that everyone should go see.
All photos courtesy of Keeyahtay Lewis. See more of his work at deadboltphotos.com