Heypenny, Umbrella Tree, Daniel Ellsworth And The Great Lakes at the High Watt Tonight

By Contributor Andrew Johnson

Tonight, Friday August 17, Heypenny, Umbrella Tree and Daniel Ellsworth And The Great Lakes take the stage at the High Watt. I will be in attendance. A few words about the bands:

Heypenny is about well-crafted busyness. Busyness of colors, lyrics, musical instrumentation, on stage antics, video dance moves and images, such as the music video for Purple Street. The video concept is simple, but the imagery propels the song. This isn’t the busyness of the workplace that we dread. We’re in awe of this happy-go-lucky style. Everything is in rhythmic order with design, like a metronome with panache. We dance to it, we enjoy it. We try to stop, but we can’t escape it. The catchy rhythm is riveting in our blood.  Even a song with a slower droning rhythm like Angles and Arches finds its way into our central nervous system. You feel it, you start bobbing you head. You start moving your arms. All this is happening involuntarily, like you were hypnotized by a robot. But you enjoy it and you want some more. Check out the video for Purple Street below:

Umbrella Tree is of a different breed. One that beckons the listener to ride with it in a time machine, back to the end of the 18th century. You have a song like “The Watcher” on the latest vinyl release To the Memory of a Once Great Man, with its Western style acoustic guitar and moog synthesizer wailing in the background. Then you have an electro-pop song like “Josephine,” about Napoleon Bonaparte’s  love and longing to be reunited with his first wife. On this record in particular, Umbrella Tree’s music paints history in the light of an intriguing story, and gives life to the historical context with their whimsical and delicate delivery. If a Napoleon Bonaparte fencing match reenactment takes place on stage, I just might pee my pants in excitement.

On their latest record, Civilized Man, Daniels Ellsworth and The Great Lakes have the pop hit equation down, but that doesn’t mean they sacrifice character on any particular song. In fact, it’s almost as if the songs have lives of their own. “Edison Light” decides to quickly pick up the pace and take a different direction halfway through. A Hawaiian-style steel guitar driven part quickly changes to an uptempo rock groove, and then reverts, adding horns.  This keeps the listener guessing attentively and it’s almost as if Thomas Edison himself flicked a light switch in the middle of the song. “Bleeding Tongue” has its own set of tempo changes, and these work well to drive the mellow lyrics into the listener’s head like carved messages engraved on the top of a wooden picnic table. The video for “Bleeding Tongue” is below:

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