This was not the typical 21st birthday for a young musician. No crazy drinks, no fancy strip clubs ... in fact, Manchester Orchestra's lead singer Andy Hull was actually talking to his mom and sister just before walking onstage at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. When I read the news of a Manchester Orchestra headlining tour - I was ecstatic! I saw them once earlier this year and they, unfortunately, played with such a huge line-up of bands that by the time they got started, they were already done. I had tickets to see them here later in the year with Colour Revolt - but, as history has it - the 35W bridge collapsed on my way there that night and I couldn't get across the river. It's hard to believe Andy is turning a mere 21 as his lyrics suggest life experience expanding beyond that young stage.
It's rare that I find an album that grabs my attention and actually holds it for an extended period of time. There happened to be a Manchester Orchestra single on a PASTE sampler I received some time ago and I actually remember glancing over it and thinking - 'Paste put classical music on here?!!?' ... seemed odd to me ... but, from the moment I played that first Manchester Orchestra song, it was apparent that this music product is far from what their band name suggests. I immediately purchased their album "I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child" and I've literally had this on repeat for months. This album is not classical at all - it's one of the most well written pieces of indie rock art I've had grace my ears all year!
Manchester Orchestra has had a busy year. After being listed as one of Rolling Stone's top 10 bands to watch - they accompanied Brand New, Piebald, Colour Revolt, and Kings of Leon on nationwide tours and they also joined the stages at Bonnaroo and SXSW! They traveled to the UK for both the Reading and the Leeds festivals ... AND they even made an appearance on David Letterman! Their live show has often been compared to that of My Morning Jacket, but - in my opinion - it's much better. Andy Hull is captivating during his performance. He was born for the stage and it's obvious the deeper you get into a Manchester Orchestra set. The pure emotion Andy brings to his songs is reason enough to see this band live. In fact, I really don't remember anyone else in the band sticking out during the whole show (except for keyboardist Chris Freeman because at one point I thought he was having a seizure onstage - but realized that's just the way he plays). I really love when a crowd respects an artist or band enough to be completely still during slower songs. At times, the crowd actually sang Andy's words louder than himself ... but, when it came down to the slower intimate songs, you could hear a pin drop as the audience was so quiet and so focused on Andy's intensity. Manchester Orchestra really isn't anything different or new sounding .. but, I think they bring such a unique passion to their music and that alone gets addicting. At times the lyrics seem a little religious but despite this - MO insists they are not a christian band.
Manchester Orchestra formed in 2005 in Atlanta, GA. Drummer, Jeremiah Edmond is actually a studio engineer and has worked on some amazing projects (Bubba Sparxxx to name one). Jeremiah is also one of the founding members of Favorite Gentlemen Recordings - which happens to be the label that MO graces. Andy Hull has also found time to pursue a side project which he calls 'Right Away, Great Captain!' The first album under this pseudonym is an acoustic album which incorporates a storyline about a sailor that leaves his family and Andy wrote it with the direction to be the "saddest record possible". Not many are familiar with this hushed album as Andy doesn't want to take away attention from Manchester Orchestra. He's so humble he even wears his own merch onstage and orders the audience "if you're going to buy one of our shirts - please, don't do that ... purchase albums for the bands we are touring with instead because it's such great music".
I encourage you to take time to give Manchester Orchestra a listen and take a peek at some lyrics. My personal favorite songs are 'Now That You're Home', 'Where Have You Been', and 'I Can Barely Breathe'. During the live performance of 'Where Have You Been', The Annuals ran back onstage with individual drums and jammed along in a drumline-like fashion. It was totally incredible and engulfing. This is honestly one of my favorite live shows of the year and one of my favorite albums. I promise it will not disappoint!
Lastly, the Annuals (from Raleigh, NC) opened for Manchester Orchestra! I was a little distracted at first by the lead guitar player, Kenny Florence - as he bears a crazy resemblance to American Idol singer Sanjaya. Perhaps it was the low lighting or his long hair, but Kenny really did sorta look like Sanjaya. Anyways, Kenny is one of the best guitar players I have ever seen - and, that alone is enough to check out a live Annuals show! Ladies, lead singer, Adam Baker, is quite the eye candy catch at times as well!
*by Jen Panczenko, who is super pumped the Packers won today!