Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Something Different: Music Review - This Blue Heaven at Great Scott, 5/13/08

Note: This is the first in what may or may not be a series of off-topic posts at the blog. Why? Cause it's my blog. Deal.


As you all know, most of my entertainment budget goes toward attending local sporting events. It's not that I don't have other interests, it's just that I often find the alternatives aren't worth the time or money - particularly when it comes to musical performances

The big time acts are so expensive that it needs to be someone that I really enjoy - and among major modern acts that list is pretty much limited to U2 and Muse. And the small local rock shows aren't really my scene even though I like indie rock just fine. For the most part I find most of the bands to be pretty good, but very noisy - and very few of them actually stand out from the rest.

But in October, I stumbled across a local band that truly did distinguish itself. This Blue Heaven, a Boston-based quintet, put on a splendid show at Boston College and instantly struck me with their deep, introspective lyrics and sweet melodies.

It's rare that I find a band that truly reflects my mood, but This Blue Heaven does just that. Their mixture of melancholy and bliss struck a chord with me. Their songs have the kind of lyrics that make you think and re-think their meaning for hours, combined with catchy hooks that also linger with you long after the show.

Thus, I sprung at the chance to catch them in person again at Great Scott in Allston. They did not disappoint.

This Blue Heaven are led by lead singer and songwriter MacKenzie Outlund, whose voice is powerful yet sweet; it sounds equally likely to come from a major radio star or the girl down the street who sings a mean national anthem.

She comes across as an awkward yet friendly, deep-thinking person, whose interactions get the crowd involved from the get-go. Her philosophy major background is evident in lyrics such as "the philosopher says there's no deeper despair / than remembering a future that will never be there."

Any group on the rise needs a likable leader, and Outlund is just that -she has the type of contagious on-stage personality necessary to help a small band from Boston take off.

To me, the backbone of the band's music is Aaron Rosenthal, the keyboard player, who adds effects whose moods can be chilling, relaxing, or very upbeat.

Stu Dietz does a solid job on guitar, while also occasionally contributing a deep, rich counterpoint to Outlund's lead vocals - most notable in the song "Insomnia," in which his voice helps create the ominous mood of a song about sleepless nights.

The group is rounded out by Mark Desrosiers, bassist and BC '08 (woo!), and drummer Brandon Erdos.

The band can rock with the best of them: they performed the dance number "Where the Living Starts," which almost sounds like it's ripped from a hoedown, and the piercing "My Disgrace." where Outlund sounds almost Gwen Stefani-like, belting it out while the rest of the band jams in the background.

But This Blue Heaven are at their best when at their most introspective. "This Time" and "You Can't Take Back What You Said" stole the show at Great Scott, creating that aforementioned mood of melancholic bliss.

While they are a musically talented bunch, what truly makes them stand out is not the instrumentation but the songs, which are strong right on down the line. Whether they have you thinking or have you dancing, This Blue Heaven's songs will have you waiting in anticipation for their debut album, which comes out this fall.

This Blue Heaven:

-You Can't Take Back What You Said-

-Where the Living Starts-

-This Time-

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