Photos by Danielle Malkin and Ray Roa
Even to the most casual observer, it would be obvious: Tampa has a love affair with The Bright Light Social Hour.
From Creative Loafing’s first enthusiastic calls to support the ‘stache, to our own spirited coverage of the band, to WMNF’s undying love, the 813 (and 727) are clearly head over heels for this Austin, Tex.-based foursome of musicians whose penchant for being very easy on the eyes is eclipsed only by their kindness and undying commitment to producing mind-melting, nearly uncategorizable, rock & roll.
“I feel very good about 2013 so far, I feel a lot of love.”
– TBLSH bassist Jack O’ Brien
Despite a touring itinerary that has brought them to town almost a dozen times over the last three years and having only one official LP under their belts, fans continue to flock to Bright Light Social Hour shows. Sure, this particular bill was moved from the west end of La Septima to the E. 7th Ave anchor that is the new Orpheum, but promoters did good by moving the show to a smaller venue. The Ritz would’ve looked cavernous in a bad way, and Orpheum’s Jerry Dufrain and his staff busted their asses to keep the crowd properly watered. And for the most part all in attendance seemed ready to ring in 2013 with a buzz in their bodies.
After opening sets from Tampa’s own The Groves and Jacksonville’s Le BLORR, the band took the stage just after midnight, popped a bottle of champagne (with a bottle of Jameson in tow) before proceeding to take fans on an hour-and-half journey that never, ever seems to grow tired. Although it’s two-years old (sadly that’s an eternity in the 140-character attention span world we’re living in), “Shanty” was immediately transcendental, and the boys’ musicianship would hold the attention of the room for the remainder of the set.
Whether it’s the harmonizing between guitarist Curtis Roush and keyboardist A.J. Vincent or the subtly hypnotizing rhythm combo of bassist Jack O’ Brien and Jo Mirasole on drums, a Bright Light Social Hour audience gets transported to another place whether they like it or not without ever really knowing it. It’s almost like not realizing you’re having really great sex until you’re actually dripping with sweat and feeling that strange tingling throughout your body.
Roush seems to have an arsenal of six-string artillery that a guitar-wielding version of the NRA would pop an instant woody for, Mirasole proves the beauty of simplicity with his mastery of a four-piece kit, and Vincent possesses a beautifully demonized countertenor that is at least one-hundred times more spellbinding on stage than it already is on record. Jack O’ Brien, for his part, has a natural charisma (and sexy body – sorry, according to any fan I’ve queried, this cannot be denied) that makes him clearly stand out as the frontman in band that is made up of individuals that could easily front their own outfits.
Despite it all, the band still remains humble. They still looked a bit stunned after the ear-piercing sing-along to “Detroit,” and they didn’t make the crowd wait forever for the encore. The Bright Light Social Hour want to play music, and they play it in a simple way that only they can. Even with your eyes closed, the passion for rock & roll comes through loud and clear.
This is a band seemingly at the top of their game in the infancy of what seems like a very long career. It’s almost a shame that they have to exist in a music-consuming climate that sometimes seems to favor illegal pirating, instant streams, and gimmicky shticks over real, hard-earned, road-tested musicians. Their new material sounds promising, and by the reception they received, it looks as though they’ll be here to stay.
They described Tampa as a “second home” and their adoring fans always seem ready with open arms.
“I feel very good about 2013 so far,” said O’Brien as the band’s set wrapped up, “I feel a lot of love.” It seems like Tampa Bay still feels that way too.
Have a look at photos from the show (including a few shots from Le BLORR’s opening set below), and read more coverage of TBLSH here.