The Launchpad, Albuquerque, NM | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, February 27th, 2024  

Photos by Carol Kennedy

Okkervil River, Lowlights

The Launchpad, Albuquerque, NM, August 30th, 2007

Aug 30, 2007 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The missus and I left our baby boy with a non-relative for the first time ever to walk down the street for the Okkervil River show. Really, since my mother-in-law left town two months ago, it’s our first night out alone together—cause enough for celebration, but throw in Okkervil and the discovery of locals Lowlights, and we’ve got a great night out. We got to the Launchpad and ran into some people from my office and chatted them up for a few minutes before Lowlights took the stage.

Lowlights are a six-piece rock band that give off a folk/country vibe with a slight psychedelic tinge. I would compare them to contemporaries Oakley Hall, but with more of a haunting, low-key Western feel than the Brooklyn band. Singer, guitar, and electric piano player Dameon Lee’s restrained vocals carry just enough weight to perfectly accompany the band’s often low-key arrangements, but he can also pull out the girth for the up-tempo numbers. Combined with violinist Jessica Billey’s lovely voice, the two complement each other nicely on some wonderful ballads, notably “Snow Is Silver.” It was really a nice surprise to walk into such a great local band.

Friends have been hyping Okkervil River for a few albums, especially Black Sheep Boy, but I never really got into them until I heard The Stage Names. I think it’s a fantastic, up-beat album and I’ve totally fallen for singer Will Sheff’s storytelling. Despite a couple of reports of lackluster shows from the same friends, this one was certainly not—the band and Sheff were energetic and spot-on, performing a very entertaining set.

Stand-out songs from The Stage Names were “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe,” “You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man,” and the trumpet-laden “Plus Ones.” The drummer, Travis Nelson, was great to watch, flopping around like a deranged puppet—not quite Animal, but close. Sheff was also getting his rockstar on, which I did not expect. For aman whose shirt stayed tucked in for almost the whole show he’s totally got the rock moves. And just like on the album, his voice cracks beautifully when he forces the high notes.

The live version of “John Allyn Smith Sails” with its stolen Beach Boys lyrics was a massive crowd pleaser, especially for Carol Kennedy, who we met at the show and took the pictures for this review. For the first song of the band’s encore, Sheff played a cover of Neil Young’s “Albuquerque,” something I imagine happens here quite often. Thankfully, he merged it with one of his own songs before anyone in the crowd had time to yell out “Cortez the Killer”—we’ve got a baby to get home to!

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