Austin band The Eastern Sea celebrated the release of their new album with a sold out show at Stubb's on Friday night. Dana Falconberry opened. Review by Allie Eissler. Photography by Grant Schaefer.
“You are here. Tonight.” The words of “This is Holborn” rang with added intensity on Friday night, as local atmospheric alt-rockers The Eastern Sea celebrated two momentous firsts: the release of their first official LP, Plague, and their first sold-out show... ever.
The line to get inside Stubb's wrapped around the building impressively at ten, populated with all manner of folks. Death Cab wafted ever-so-fittingly from the speakers as warm bodies filled the empty spaces with sweaty beers and conversation.
Opener Dana Falconberry breezed onstage in a cotton candy sundress and cowboy boots — reminiscent of Zooey Deschanel but with perhaps a hint of Patty Griffin — and immediately captivated the crowd with her silky-sweet, slightly twangy soprano. Eerie a cappella harmonies segued swiftly into peppy rhythms and undulatory basslines — hazy and nostalgic, like the sounds I'd imagine emanating from a magical underwater jukebox.
The crowd surged forward just before The Eastern Sea took front and center. Now an expanded eight-piece production bolstered by flute and trumpet, they looked practically like a brand new band — buzzing with contagious warmth, smiles, and excitement as the opening staccato notes of “Central Cemetery” echoed forth. Frontman Matt Hines' voice soared over punchy drums, simultaneously controlled and emotive, crescendoing triumphantly into a singalong chorus of ohhh-oh-oh-oh's. Maintaining high energy, the band followed with the dancey rock anthem “The Name” — “tell me your name, I swear I'll drop it whenever I can” — and the frenetic handclaps of “Santa Rosa,” gradually layering sound upon sound to produce an explosion of garagey distorted guitars that culminated in a dramatic stop-finish.
The kinship that Hines shares with Death Cab's Ben Gibbard is undeniable — incisive, introspective lyrics set to simmering melodies and swelling, anthemic post-rock percussion. Fortunately, I think he's more of a Win Butler in terms of stage presence. There's a constant slow burning, pulsing intensity to Hines' performances that makes it impossible to look away, even during quieter moments.
The moody but subdued opening of hymnal-esque title track “Plague” — simple, wistful vocals over an echoey swell of distortion — brought pulses down a notch until Hines' emphatic line “back in my hometown” rang out with fierce abandon. The band really seemed to find their groove with “The Menu,” an old, familiar number which rumbled with perfectly clangy folk-pop intensity. Sadly, “The Snow” — one of my all-time favorites — suffered from a slightly awkward intro, but quickly recovered and proceeded smoothly into “This is Holborn.”
At this point, everyone except Hines abandoned the stage, and he proceeded to divvy up a cappella harmony duties amongst the crowd per an enthusiastic audience member's suggestion (“Let's do girls and boys!”) Girls hummed the soprano lines and boys the bass until, much to everyone's surprise, the song transformed into a beautiful bare-bones acoustic cover of Bon Iver's “Blood Bank.”
“This is it! This is it! We just met... and this is crazy!” Hines quipped to a flurry of giggles from the audience, as the melodic guitar lines of “The Match” became nothing but drums, echoing into the darkness. -Allie Eissler