Liz Cooper & The Stampede
Sun, June 17, 2018
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm
Houndmouth - (Set time: 9:15 PM)
In the last four years, Houndmouth have learned what it means to be a band. On their second album, Little Neon Limelight, they wear that wisdom like a badge of honor.
Less than a half-decade ago in the small Indiana city of New Albany, four pals were crafting tunes on their own, with few ambitions of turning those songs into a spectacle. That all changed when these friends crossed paths, and joined forces. Matt Myers, Shane Cody, Katie Toupin, and Zak Appleby became the drums and keys, guitars and harmonies of Houndmouth, and those personal numbers became the irrepressible core of an outfit turned magnetic.
In 2012, the group issued a self-titled EP on Rough Trade Records, the legendary imprint that signed them after seeing a single gig. One of 2013’s most incandescent debuts, their From the Hills Below the City LP affirmed what label owner Geoff Travis had heard: the sounds of Americana, renewed by the youthful glow of songwriters, musicians and pals unafraid to both celebrate and desecrate them.
Others noticed, too. The Guardian noted that, with From the Hills, “reservations fade,” while Rolling Stone’s David Fricke lauded the “earthy melancholy with a rude garage-rock streak.” Treks with the Drive-by Truckers and the Alabama Shakes followed, plus performances at the Newport Folk Festival, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. In cramped clubs and big theaters alike, Houndmouth earned a reputation as a must-see act, their hooks, energy and charisma making them feel like a lifelong friend you’d just met.
That success, though, turned what had started as fun into something closer to work. Houndmouth learned that being full-time musicians required much more than the nine-to-five endeavors they had left behind in Indiana. But they grew into the role and grew from it. Experiences accumulated; perspectives expanded. Relationships stalled; others progressed.
“We’re not in party mode all the time anymore,” says Myers. “We’re refining how we write songs, writing about people we love, more important things than just nonsensical stuff.” If that was the charge, then Little Neon Limelight is an unapologetic success. These eleven songs sparkle, fade, and sparkle again, mixing innocence and experience, acceptance and aspiration, horror and hope.
Recorded by Dave Cobb in Nashville, Little Neon Limelight pairs the energy and nerves of raw first takes with the accents and moods of a more contemplative, thoughtful unit. Hearts are broken and friends are exiled, love grows cold and drugs do damage, leaders make mistakes and money turns tricks. On the acoustic “Gasoline,” one of the most poignant moments of Houndmouth’s catalog, Toupin barbs the confessions of a perennial party girl with the specter of mortality. “Maybe I’ll meet my maker on a bedroom floor,” she sings, her voice fighting against its own existential fade as bowed cello traces her words. Haunted by samples of the buoyant opener and single “Sedona” and the noisy filigree of a Moog, the beautifully downcast “For No One” stalks through personal blues with conviction. Its world-weariness has been incubated by the world it surveys.
But all of these feelings aren’t worn on Houndmouth’s collective sleeves: Despite the turmoil embedded within many of these songs, they are equal parts energetic proclamation, built with choruses that can’t be denied, harmonies that can’t be escaped and rhythms that can’t be resisted. With its carousel keyboards and start-and-stop drums, “Say I”” is a combination come-on and kiss-off that might make Keith Richards blush. For “15 Years,” Houndmouth conjures barroom bluster to voice the woes of a prisoner, backing the cries of his soul with howling organ and slashing guitar. When all the action drops into a shout-along, gospel-strong bridge, you might feel the urge to bust the fella out yourself. What’s the point of having the blues, Houndmouth seems to say, if you can’t have fun with them, too?
Nowhere is that balance of tragedy and triumph better than on the romp “My Cousin Greg,” a Band-style saga where each member takes a turn with a verse. Written about Myers’ actual cousin and former cover-band bandmate Greg, these four minutes present the title guy as a mischievous, enlightened and acerbic genius. He leaves Florida with his master’s degree in physics for a brainy job in Los Angeles, raising metaphysical hell and questions along the way. Greg thinks his cousin has it made, touring the country by van while playing the songs he’s written.
But Myers disagrees: “If you wanna live the good life/Well, you better stay away from the limelight,” the quartet sings as one in the chorus, repeating the mantra as though it were their only lifeline to sanity. For those long drives, it’s a reminder of the thrill and toil of what they now get to do. “For the first record, we were floating around after having been thrown into this,” explains Myers. “This time, we were able to write more about experiences than random stories, because that’s where we are in life. There had to be an attachment to what we recorded.”
For Little Neon Limelight, the charged, charming and preternaturally mature Houndmouth did exactly that.
- Grayson Haver Currin
Liz Cooper & The Stampede - (Set time: 8:00 PM)
There is a collective energy in Nashville, one that Liz Cooper has poured herself into for the past six years. Liz remarks that the energy in Nashville today is akin to that of Greenwich Village in 1960s New York or the Laurel Canyon days in the 1960s and 1970s and is a product of a collaborative approach to music and art. This community has allowed Liz to be a part of many magically haphazard nights, where the movers and shakers of the Nashville music world, such as Okey Dokey, Becca Mancari, Rayland Baxter, Desert Noises, Morning Teleportation, Erin Rae, Brittany Howard, Cage the Elephant, Michael Nau and many more converge to make music and art and lose track of time. Her latest album is a product of that pulsating energy in Nashville that has had some of the greatest influence in her work.
Window Flowers is the culmination of a year where Liz made a purposeful effort to do something creative every day. Whether
it was directly related to music or not, this creative process challenged and inspired her to continually put herself in new situations and pushed her to become a better songwriter and guitar player. The tentative newcomer that is present in her early recordings was all but gone in the making of the album. Her absorption into the collaborative community is evidenced by guest appearances on Window Flowers including Will Brown (Michael Nau) on the keys, Michael and Ben Ford (Airpark) BGV’s/ guitar and songwriting, Gianni Gibson (Future Thieves) percussion, Leah Blevins on bgv’s, Emily Kohavi (Kacey Musgraves, Eminem etc.) on violin and Steve Dawson on pedal steel. Liz Cooper & The Stampede and their guests spent five days tracking Window Flowers at Welcome to 1979 in Nashville, Tennessee. TJ Elias, who co-produced the album with the band, sparked the relationship by approaching Liz one night backstage at The Ryman Auditorium after hearing her songs through a mutual friend and musician, Cody Huggins.
Window Flowers is a collection of music that deals with the weight of mundanity, and politely tells it to fuck off. When listening to “Sleepyhead” you hear remembrances of her early Nashville recordings, mixed with the powerful assertion that this is Liz Cooper, a force that will continue to shape and mold her own course of creating music. Whether you see Liz Cooper & The Stampede in a dive bar or a theater venue, you feel like you are being transported to another time and place. People often remark that her music takes them back to the 60s and 70s, when rock-n-roll felt alive, and bigger than oneself. The album will be released on Sleepyhead Records via Thirty Tigers (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) August 10, 2018.
Coming off their busiest year to-date, including playing Austin City Limits Festival for the first time in 2017, Liz Cooper & The Stampede have spent the first few months of 2018 touring with Lord Huron, Deer Tick, Rayland Baxter, Ron Gallo and Blitzen Trapper. The band will continue touring this year with Houndmouth, Tyler Childers and will play Firefly Festival and LouFest.
As Liz shakes her tambourine, hair falling in her face, donning a floral jumpsuit, it is hard to believe she identifies as a shy person. “I wanted to grow as a human and a musician so I had to quickly get over being painfully shy. I moved to Nashville as a scared and unconfident 19 year-old so I had to continually challenge myself and put myself out there. Now, as a 25 year- old I feel like I’ve grown so much confidence. Of course I
and many more converge to make music and art and lose track of time. Her latest album is a product of that pulsating energy in Nashville that has had some of the greatest influence in her work.
will always be awkward, but I’m learning to love that. What a journey it’s been and will continue to be; definitely a hot puzzle. As I grow, my music will grow. Music is helping me figure out who I am and what the hell my life is all about and at the end of the day it just makes me happy. Isn’t that what everyone is trying to figure out how to be?”
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001