REVIEW: Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes | 12.13.14 @ The High Watt

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Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes
w/ BASECAMP, Buffalo Rodeo, and The Electric Sons
The High Watt; Nashville, TN
December 13, 2014

Review by Jake Lanier.

We caught December’s Red Bull Sound Select show featuring Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes with BASECAMP, Buffalo Rodeo, and The Electric Sons over the weekend at The High Watt. While we would have preferred to see this event happen in the larger space of Mercy Lounge, we were quite impressed with this SOLD OUT show, and could not wait to share our thoughts. Check out the review below, and keep a lookout for your next chance to catch DE&TGL in Nashville. We promise you will not be disappointed, and we strongly advise that you catch them soon – it will not be long before you’re going to have to shell out forty bucks to see them headline.

Due to some miscommunication somewhere, I arrived at Cannery Row at 7:15pm only to be find out that they were not opening the doors until 8pm. When I was told I would have to wait outside, I decided to run and grab a drink and come back, rather than stand in the cold for forty-five minutes. I made it back at around 8:15pm and, lucky for me, found a line extending to the fenced parking lot. While I was waiting, I saw that The Electric Sons posted on Facebook that they would be “on at 8pm sharp”. I am still trying to figure out why you put your first band on and open the doors at the same time but maybe I’m missing something here.

I made it into The High Watt in time to catch the last song by The Electric Sons, and I am pretty sure I will be regretting my decision not to wait in the cold for quite some time… at least until I get a chance to see them play a full set. These guys really impressed me. As I walked in, the crowd was reacting as if they were seeing a headliner. Everyone danced and cheered along as lead singer, Andrew Miller, and one of the keyboardists banged on two bass drums and sang. It helped that they were playing “Breathing Electricity” (which is probably their most popular song), but Miller definitely has a pro-like ability to interact with the audience. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an opening band get a crowd so amped. It would have been much more beneficial for DE&TGL had these guys gone directly before them because things slowed way down during the next two sets.

Buffalo Rodeo went on next. I love their recorded stuff, especially “Treehouse,” but, coming off of the energy of The Electric Sons, I had a harder time connecting with their set. I should add that there were definitely some superfans in the crowd that would strongly disagree with me. My theory for this is that The Electric Sons were way too energetic to open the show, and, perhaps, Buffalo Rodeo should have been scheduled first to build up throughout the evening. The vocals for all of their songs were quite enchanting, however, and the way they switch from male to female lead so effortlessly was very impressive. They also made a point to show the crowd how grateful they were; which is something that doesn’t happen as often as it should and sometimes goes underappreciated.

BASECAMP came on next and slowed it down even more – producing a sound as if Boyz 2 Men went EDM. These guys have a very specific style and an air of confidence you hope to find with artists in the club world. It was apparent that some of the crowd didn’t really know how to act because it just wasn’t the type of music they are used to, but I was happy to see that everyone still enjoyed themselves. I respect that BASECAMP don’t fill their set with much banter and just keep the music flowing. It’s all part of a journey that they are trying to take the audience on, and they’ve gotten pretty damn good at accomplishing this…even with a crowd full of inde-rock lovers.

And, finally, Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes took the stage in front of a “Kid Tiger” illuminated backdrop. I’ll start by saying that Daniel Ellsworth himself is one of the best performers I’ve seen behind a keyboard. The amount of passion he is able to convey with just the expressions on his face is unrivaled. You would have never guessed that they had just come off of a 17-show run with how excited he was to share his music with the crowd.

They started the set off with “Idle Warning,” an obvious crowd favorite and great choice to kick off the performance. Along with Ellsworth’s dramatic piano intro, bassist Marshall Skinner presented us with a groovy solo as Ellsworth backed up and let him take center stage. They moved right into “Phantoms,” which seems to be the song they’re most comfortable playing and Ellsworth is the happiest singing. It was quite clear why this was the title of their tour. Next up was “Fits & Starts,” which you have probably heard on Lightning 100 quite a few times. The drum solo in this song really kicked ass and showed just how phenomenal of a drummer Joel Wren is. To say Wren utilizes all of his resources would be an understatement as he even plays the metal stand holding up his cymbals. “Ready Set” followed, giving Timon Lance a chance to show off his unparalleled guitar skills. This was one of a few instances when their songs ended with a break down into this incredible organized chaos that is reminiscent of an 80s garage band. “Little Light” and “Static” were next during which DE&TGL really tightened up their sound and seemed to find their groove. It was at this point that I heard a girl turn to her friend who was standing motionless in awe and say simply “Yea…I know….right?” I had a quick flashback of me saying that exact same thing to a buddy that I brought to their Live on the Green set back in September.

Nearing the end of their set, DE&TGL graced us with “Waves.” I was later told that a handful of people who had taken a smoke break immediately ditched their cigs and ran back inside to catch this tune. I was stoked to hear that, since this was my favorite song they performed all night. Ellsworth took a second after “Waves” to thank the crowd and plug merch and the like. This is something I noticed that DE is very good at. He delivers impeccable banter and the crowd really likes to hear him talk. I could almost hear ladies’ hearts breaking every time he spoke. He takes the time to plug what he is supposed to plug and does it in a way that comes off as sincere rather than pushy in any way. He is a manager’s wet dream.

They proceeded to play “Tourniquet” and then moved into an older song called “Bleeding Tongue” that I wasn’t sure if I had heard before. Ellsworth busted out a tambourine for this one, which was enough to keep my attention. At this point, I started to notice the crowd had thinned a bit. I’ve noticed this with later shows at The High Watt before and don’t really understand why it happens. However, there was still a pretty much full room and all eyes were on DE&TGL – people weren’t even ordering drinks because they were so immersed in the energy emitted from the stage.

They finished their set with “Sun Goes Out,” which was a great choice, because it really left the crowd wanting more. As soon as they walked off the stage, there was a deafening chant of “ONE MORE SONG.” The band did as commanded, and returned to deliver an epic performance of “Shoe Fits,” to wrap up what was arguably one of the best sets I’ve seen in Nashville.

The thing that sets DE&TGL apart from the other indie-rock bands out there, is that their songs are full of stops and starts that mimic the rise and bass drop you experience at an EDM show. They keep you immersed in the music and do what they can to show you the time of your life. I was already a fan of these guys, but my love for their music increased ten-fold after seeing this show. They really know what they’re doing. They write great songs and they perform them like professionals. There will definitely be many more chances to catch them live so don’t fret if you missed this one; however, I am certain that they will have to upgrade to a bigger venue for their next Nashville show.

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