“Of Lilys and Remains”
Ranked almost smack dab in the middle at a modest 24th on Pitchfork’s recent “The 50 Best Shoegaze Albums of All Time” list, the Lily’s “In The Presence of Nothing” is an album that hasn’t always been given its proper due as the sprawling, influential masterpiece that it really is. While singer and founder Kurt Heasley has adeptly mastered (and transitioned between) musical styles through the decades, it is the Lily’s visionary 1992 debut that will forever immortalize their legacy in the annals of music history. It is an album that beckons one to engage in repeated listening and to revisit over time. Like a fine wine, it has only gotten better with age.
Given this deep adoration of the band’s early work, I was particularly eager to see them during their current tour where they were highlighting their early to mid 90’s output. Thanks to the band’s management, I received a press pass to see them perform in LA at the Echo on Sunday February 5th at their sold-out concert. Big lines had formed outside the venue prior to the doors opening, with desperate fans who hadn’t previously scored tickets walking around trying to score with more motivation than a crackhead. On top of that, being Super Bowl Sunday, the dedication of the audience showed that they were more interested in a band from Washington D.C. named after a delicate flower than they were with any other big contenders. No need for a half-time show here. Everyone who made it through the doors ended up being a winner by the end of the night given the impressive spectacle they were about to witness.
Opening bands the Dead Heavens and Tennis System warmed up the crowd. Both bands were great but, to be honest, it was Tennis System that blew me away with their inspired, energetic energy and enthusiasm. There were definitely moments during their set in which I heard glimmering beauty, requisite pedal work and drone ambience akin to some of the best ouput from shoegaze and dream pop legends (Jesus and Mary Chain, RIDE and early MBV come to mind). With their “Johnny Fucking Marr” and Cure t-shirts on, bassist Sam Glassberg and vocalist and guitarist Matty Taylor appeared to be consciously aware of the influential “greats” that came before them and grateful to potentially be part of the same successful lineage.
The Lilys gave the crowd what they wanted vis-à-vis an epic 16 song musical journey through their back catalog. Kurt has a vulnerability and authenticity in his stage presence that I found endearing. There was no “rock posturing” here, only pure, sincere lyricism mixed with beautiful, complimentary sounds. In fact, there’s something about Kurt that seems so surprisingly youthful for someone who’s been putting out music for over a quarter century. Perhaps it’s the case that the Lilys continue to bloom because their roots are somehow being fed by the proverbial Fountain of Youth! In fact, I think Kurt should bottle that elixir that is keeping him forever young and include it with advance preorders of his next album!
(Kurt Heasley and The Lilys)
I must say that the current incarnation of the Lilys is comprised of an impressive lineup that includes James Richardson and Will Berman (of MGMT), Travis Rosenberg, Matt Werth, Alex Craig and Don DeVore. Their collective musical skill and acumen was evident throughout the show. I definitely recommend folks check out the band during the current tour to witness this tapestry of musicianship firsthand.
The song list of the night was as follows:
1. High Writer At Home
2. Overlit Canyon (The Obscured Wingtip Memoir)
3. The Hermit Crab
4. Tone Bender
6. Your Guest and Host
7. Threw A Day
9. The Any Several Sundays
11. Perception Room
12. Touch the Water (Velvet Underground Cover)
14. Claire Hates Me
16. Will My Lord Be Gardening
On a personal note, I was very happy to pick up some ample merchandise (including the recent vinyl repressings of their first two albums) and even briefly chatted with Kurt after the show and got autographs. He was a nice guy and I got the impression he was happy with how the night’s performance and fan reception went. In my mind, it was Kurt who truly earned the MVP award for Super Bowl Sunday.
For the latest updates on Kurt and the Lilys, check out @theLILYs on Twitter.
Inner Edge Music