The Bright Light Social Hour [Live]


The Bright Light Social Hour, from Austin, Texas, is starting to make some sizable impressions. The band’s self-titled debut album earned them six awards at the Austin Music Awards during SXSW in 2011 - including Band of the Year. On October 24, 2013 they returned to the Chicago area after a well-received set at this summer’s Lollapalooza to take the stage at SPACE, an intimate club near Northwestern University that has an upscale industrial decor. The boys served up a hearty helping of their southern specialty - a blend of soulful, psychedelic dance rock, steeped in the blues. I left the venue awestruck, satiated by the quality and originality of this freshman group.

To be fair, however, the scope of TBLSH’s music reaches far beyond rock. Rather, it seems their live show serves to energize their eclectic catalogue, by placing it in a rock ‘n’ roll context. Detroit, (2011’s Austin Music Awards Song of the Year) juxtaposes heavy indie with a classic R&B chorus. This song helped set the mood and had the audience singing along early in the concert. Throughout the rest of the set, spacey soundscapes gave way to raw blues and pure funk. Amongst new songs and material from their debut, they played a striking cover of Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer as well as the massive disco beat of, Back and Forth, which is what truly sold these guys to me. The infectious groove of Back and Forth seemed to generate its own energy throughout the room. This energy flowed to the audience, then back to the stage where the band continued to intensify – feeding off this cycle That buzz was carried all the way through to the last chord of a whiskey-fueled (quite literally – the band brought the bottle of whiskey from the green room to the stage for the encore) take on the classic, Young Man Blues.

TBLSH have a way of stripping rock ‘n’ roll of its pretentions and giving their audience a breath of fresh air. They are one of those bands that must be experienced live in order to ‘get’ them. I have listened to their album, and I truly think it’s great. But on stage, TBLSH make you feel their music.

I spoke with the band after the show and they told me that as a group they are always trying new things. They also said that while driving from state to state, they listen to Miles Davis’s autobiography on tape, which has inspired more experimentation and spontaneity on stage. After this show, I cannot wait to hear what else their newfound zeal for experimentation and spontaneity will create. Beyond that, all I can really say is that the next time they come to town, you will see me there.

By Mitchell Manacek

Here is a live recording of 'Ouroboros'.