Houndmouth’s Neon Still Burning Bright and Pink

Nashville’s Los Colognes, opening the show at the Town Ballroom on the first night of a tour with Houndmouth, impressed the filling venue with a 45 minute taste of their laid back rock. They started things off with “Baby, You Can’t Have Both,” a party rocker with a “Not Fade Away” rhythm. The Grateful Dead influence didn’t end there, with many songs in their set sounding somewhat familiar but different. Like a Go To Heaven-era cover band, but playing all originals. Jay Rutherford’s SG even had hints of Garcia’s tone embedded, but played in a style that made the sound all his own.

Later, with rhythm guitarist Wojtek Krupka picking up a slide and bassist Gordon Persha bounding around in the pocket on a driving blues number, another classic rock band’s influence came to the fore, The Allman Brothers. It was classic rock with a modern aesthetic tightening it up and applying a shine.

While not scoping out a completely original sound, they kept it simple and tight, pulling off a diverse and exciting set with a few surprising left turns. Rutherford’s guitar work, whether within the melody or breaking through with a roaring solo, was truly a highlight.

Houndmouth was recently reduced to a trio when keyboardist/vocalist Katie Toupin left the band earlier this year. It was their first ever time playing in Buffalo, but that didn’t mean the packed crowd wasn’t intensely familiar with them. Calls for Katie rang out as the band entered the stage and once the music started, their shouts turned to the lyrics as they sang most every song right along with the band.

With one member down the band took on a different look both in sound and appearance. The three remaining, Matt Myers on guitar, Shane Cody on drums and Zak Appleby on bass, ironically without the feminine influence anymore, shed their usual ragged look. They were clean shaven (including Cody’s head), wearing nice suits and had some subtle glam makeup/face paint. Musically the trio added two saxophones, Graeme Gardiner and Drew Miller, to round out and punctuate their sound. They may have sounded a bit different than they have in the past, but the key was that they’ve got a great slate of songs that can be resilient and overcome the change. That’s what great songs do!

Houndmouth was excited to be back on the road and were rewarded with a ravenous Friday night crowd. Band and audience fed off each other throughout the evening bringing the energy to a fever pitch. “Let’s get weird, it’s Friday night,” Cody exclaimed before launching into “Coming Around Again.” Myers changed the lyrics to “Had a Couple of Drinks in Buffalo” riling the crowd while Cody hopped up and down in his seat waving his sticks at the crowd and mouthing expletives egging them on even further.

The energy didn’t cool down until the encore. Myers opened with a beautiful solo guitar performance of “For No One.” The full band returned for a scorching take on “Motion Pictures,” a deep cut off of Neil Young’s fantastic yet underrated On the Beach album, that featured some great work form the horn section. A show closing rollicking sing-along of “My Cousin Greg” finished the show back up on a high energy note.

Setlist: Black Gold, 15 Years, Halfway to Hardinsburg, Darlin’, Say It, Honey Slider, Hey Rose, Palmyra, Coming Around Again, Penitentiary, New Song, Sedona
Encore: For No One, Motion Pictures, My Cousin Greg