Concert previews: Hem, Evenout & Collective Soul, Earlimart and Badly Drawn Boy

Friday
Hem
Iota

Despite its mellow music, onstage Hem is incredibly energetic and fun. “Most people are surprised we aren’t angels,” songwriter and guitarist Dan Mess? said. “But we like to get drunk and rowdy in between songs.” During the songs you will most likely be hypnotized by these dark lullabies that contrast innocence with turmoil and gloom.

The hauntingly beautiful voice of lead singer Sally Ellyson is a soft mix between chamber folk and orchestral country music based on late ’60s/early ’70s pop. Mess? compares her voice to that of an innocent and hopeful child singing dark and disturbing lyrics. Hem’s latest release, Eveningland, takes its music to more surreal and weightier. They began recording the album at Stratosphere Sound in New York City in 2003 and then traveled to the Slovak Republic to record with the well-renowned Slovak Radio Orchestra.

Mess? said the album’s inspiration came from every bad relationship that ever happened. Seeking comfort is the theme. Hem writes and plays music to find its own comfort, and hope that others can find comfort in listening as well.
-Ben Richman

Friday
Evenout and Collective Soul
Recher Theater

Self described as a “melodic/hard rock quartet,” Evenout better establishes itself as generic alt rock on its first album Drown Inside, which consists of seven bitter songs about bad breakups and regretted relationships. The lyrics convey downtrodden feelings of heartache and emotional despair to a melodic guitar sound that is bound to attract young alt rock fans. The D.C. natives, led by singer Maurice Magnum, have mostly played regional shows and are beginning to gain national popularity with the uncharacteristic pop sound of their single “Look Back.” The band formed in late 2003, when Magnum joined three members of the former band combination LOCK and landed a record deal with producer Steven Haigler (Fuel, Pixies, Brand New and Quicksand).

Evenout will be opening for the Seattle-based band Collective Soul, an early ’90s grunge smash that has since undergone various image transformations. In 2004, front man Ed Roland helped the group return to its post-grunge roots with the album Youth after several years of a dwindling fan base. Fans have been pleased to hear the band’s original sound set to new songs on their fall tour promoting the album.

-Jenna Green

Saturday
Earlimart
Velvet Lounge

California’s latest underground indie rock sensation is bringing its somber, melodic, folk-rock to D.C. Formed at the turn of the century, guitarist/mastermind singer-songwriter Aaron Espinoza, bassist/keyboardist Ariana Murray and drummer David Latter recently released their second full-length album, Treble & Tremble, the follow-up to their 2003 debut. Recorded in Espinoza’s Central California Valley studio, Tremble is highlighted by distorted, crunchy guitar riffs, as well as melodic, overly dramatic, string laden melodies. In an attempt to perfect the album’s fragile, tenuous and ominous sound and themes, the group recruited a conglomerate of some of the finest producers in the indie rock scene, namely Jim Fairchild (Grandaddy), Scott McPherson (Elliott Smith, Neil Finn), Joel Graves and Brian Thornell.

Drawing off recent praise from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Spin Magazine, as well a reputation for spirited, emotional, live shows, the band has set out on an ambitious, two-month U.S. tour that will take them to nearly 30 cities. While Espinoza’s voice causes some to accuse him of being an Elliot Smith rip-off, fans of solemn, agonizingly emotional folk-rock will find themselves captivated by the sheer pleasantness of his melodies.

-Jordan Wolowitz

Wednesday, Nov. 17
Badly Drawn Boy
9:30 Club

Spending the past two months on a rigorous U.S. tour, Britain’s favorite knit-cap-wearing slacker is out to conquer a new Bewilderbeast: the reclaiming of his former identity. After releasing the soundtrack for the film “About a Boy” and the high-gloss, Hollywood follow-up Have You Fed the Fish, the prolific artist reemerged quickly on a new record label sounding like he’s ready to get back to his roots. One Plus One Is One harbors the organic, low-fi sensibilities characteristic of his early career, along with an occasional taste for the orchestral grandiose. Bent on disproving the theory that an artist can be optimistic without sounding clich?, on his historic 20th album the singer/songwriter turns his experience dealing with a hostile home record label into a contemplative, epic triumph, invoking aid from the Stockport Music Project’s children’s choir and crashing timpani drums.

-Sacha Evans

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