September 25, 2009

Live Review: Brighton, MA

Pritzker Pavilion // Chicago, IL // Sept. 9, 2009

To the east-coast familiar, Brighton, MA's chosen moniker may mislead – almost nothing in their demeanor suggests the portion of Boston around Boston College and all the "Masshole" packed within it. It's probably an unintentional irony that these five guys instead embody the quintessential Midwestern calm in music and stage presence alike. As I wandered into the Pritzker Pavilion midway through an exceptionally nice Wednesday, I got the sensation that the size of the venue dwarfed band and their audience alike. On the inside, the stage resembles the Boston Hatch Shell – giant panels of wood arcing in around the musicians. This being Chicago though, and in need of 10 times the shine of Boston, enormous leaves of metal curl out from the mouth of the stage, creating an impressive abstract structure when seen from afar.

On further approach, however, the sense that the venue marginalized the band diminished. The closer I got, the less
it felt like I was attending a show at a huge venue and the more it felt like I was just visiting five particularly talented musician friends on a campus green. The band seemed completely at ease with their surroundings, pleased with the opportunity just to play music for fun. Lead vocalist Matt Kerstein thanked the audience for taking their lunch break, day off or whatever to come and see them play. The set could only last about an hour, he said, so the band intended to bring their equipment over to the grass of Millennium Park and continue playing until security kicked them out. Hey, stages are just technicalities.

Singing over the top of a very pretty Martin acoustic, Kerstein stretched his lyrics around a more relaxed version of the kind of yelpy vocalization most famously heard in Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction. The band's sound as a whole more resembles that of an alternate-universe Wilco wherein Jeff Tweedy sheds some of his ineffable pathos and sings a good deal more loudly. Jim Tuerk and Joe Darnaby accompanied Kerstein's rhythm acoustic on an SG and a 12-string, while Jon Ozaksut and Sam Koentopp finished up the monosyllabic first name roster with bass and drums, respectively. No fancy antics could be seen, just rock-solid instrumentation. Brighton, MA came across as the kind of band too confident in their music for any kind of gimmick, a little too mature for the hipster bandwagon, very comfortable and very sincere. In each refrain, Kerstein spun lyrical maxims out to the audience – "everybody wants to be sunblinded," and "you take what you can from defeat,” for example.

And you take the philosophy at face value because really you're just sitting on the quads with your old buddy, and you know he means it.

Throughout the show, Kerstein promoted the band's new live set (recorded at Schubas) now available for free download at their website. I'll second the plug: the URL's, and the release features six awesome songs for free )infinite value!).

-Review and photos by Sasha Geffen

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