Lullwater – Asylum, Portland, Maine – October 18th, 2014
The Athens, Georgia-based Lullwater appeared at Portland, Maine’s Asylum Saturday night. Far from home, and probably relatively unknown to the crowd on hand, these Southern boys had the club alive with their energy and the crowd fully engaged and cheering through the show, a wild, energy-fueled ride. Lullwater blends Southern rock with grunge, and powers it all into a signature sound that makes you believe that rock music can save us all.
“Some people go to church. Some people go to rock shows.
I think it’s the same thing…
The music will never judge you, will never betray you.
– John Strickland, lead vocals & rhythm guitar
This show review is actually part four of our coverage of Lullwater thus far. Yes, I admit, I’m a huge fan. We have links to photos, an album review, and an interview. With a new album promised, hopefully in 2015, the coverage will continue. Buy their music, tell your friends, see the shows!
Now, down to business:
Fans know that Lullwater is meaty and powerful in the studio, but how was this going to translate live? I knew my answer 30 seconds after they took the stage. With bassist, Ray Beatty, atop a box on the edge of the stage, Lullwater took their songs from the studio out to the edge and gave them a shove. Starting off with “Oddline,” Lullwater wasted no time in showing the crowd what they were all about. As the evening progressed through the nine song set, their show folded together both delicate and raw musical elements as well as astounding vocals that stretched from extended moments of jugular popping power to quiet velvet. And they wrapped it all in a gracious deportment that welcomes in fans, old and new alike. This was a terrific performance.
Reportedly a grunge-revivalist band, although I think that oversimplifies the band’s work, Lullwater’s sound leans heavily on the grinding, edgy influence that characterized the 1990s. This is evident in arrangements, surely, and present in John Strickland’s vocals that dig and growl when needed and then easily weave and float through other songs, all the while demonstrating and offering emotional connection. Lyrically, rebellion and struggle blossom here, and it was fascinating to see Strickland bear down and create his lung-ripping velocity behind “A Forgotten Name” and “Broken Wings” and then just relax, gliding through “New Design” and “Get a Life.” Yes, grunge is here, but so is a strong Southern rock influence.
I may have been born almost as far north as the Lower 48 allow, but my heart is true to the Southern rock guitar. Brett Strickland’s work on lead guitar is understated yet clear and true. This Strickland’s work and talent, while certainly forward in the arrangements, feels marvelously subtle rather than showy, embellishing the songs with well-placed memorable guitar features that are instinctively warm and inspired. Again and again, I was struck by his guitar reaching out, whether grinding in “Waste Yourself” or hollow and lonesome in “Tug of War,” and filling the room.
Joe Wilson on drums and Ray Beatty on bass hold the rhythm and heaviness together for Lullwater as they add energy and entertainment value. Beatty’s stage work is animated – flying through the air, a grin on his face, and even enduring an unplanned but legendary tumble and laughing it off with ease. His harmony work blends well with John Strickland’s vocals, and his bass fills out the band’s sound. Joe Wilson’s drum work is strong and helps to cement the band’s ability to create depth and variety in their songs, easily moving from the essential heavy rock stomp to a decidedly lighter, funky rock beat for “Waste Yourself.” Honestly, I couldn’t see Wilson from my spot on the floor, but I could hear him loud and clear, and he sounded great.
Maine Music News had a chance to interview all the members of the band before the show. Gracious and articulate, these young men discussed their music and their vision for the future. Soon to come off the road long enough to give us a new album in 2015, they are working to build a fan base and careers that outlast the single-hit radio din music lovers endure today. John Strickland, when we asked about the endless touring schedule this band has endured for a while, told us “You work 23 hours a day to get that 1 hour on stage.” He later said, “I think we have successfully come together (as a band.) People see that when they come to our live shows. They can tell we are having fun and they really get the sense that we are a genuine band and that this is a genuine album and the music we are playing is honest and raw, and I think it translates.” Yes, John, it certainly does.
Closing the night’s performance with “Broken Wings,” a mammoth featuring a steady gnawing vibe, a psychedelic Marshall Tucker influence, and a crazy wild vocal performance, I was struck by the honesty and the vitality in their performance. Not only do they love what they do, these Southern boys Own The Stage and are holding nothing back. Lullwater is what great live music is all about.
FYI – All the band members were fighting off colds during this performance, and told us they usually have even more energy on stage. Really? Well, I hope they come back to New England again soon so we can see what full throttle looks like.
Oddline ~ A Forgotten Name ~ Get a Life ~ Let Me Out ~ New Design ~ Waste Yourself ~ Albatross ~ Tug of War ~ Broken Wings