Lovedrug at the High Dive (All photos and videos by Bebe Besch)
After two blues-rock performances prior, Lovedrug from Ohio lightened up the stage at the High Dive this weekend with many songs from their newest release Wild Blood. Being their first self-released album to date, Wild Blood offered a realm of creativity otherwise unknown to the band, and on stage the songs ring electric. “Pink Champagne” and the album’s title track “Wild Blood” began the performance, instantly exposing us to the new tunes the band is so proud of.
Another winner with the intimate crowd at the High Dive was “Dinosaur,” also off of Wild Blood. The beginning chant of “Fever, Drugs! Money, Blood!” were echoed by fans, especially by two women in the front row, who have been traveling from San Francisco to attend Lovedrug’s west coast tour dates. This song particularly showcased how lively a concert transforms Lovedrug’s discography. Lead singer Michael Shepard has described the album as being filled with possibility, and their positivity during “Dinosaur” transcends on the stage.
Though located at the side of the stage, Jeremy Gifford on guitar, synths and keys performed most vigorously of the band. Dropping to his knees to play his guitar and fiddle with pedals or bouncing atop his piano were just two of the places you could find him. Thomas Bragg on bass held to his back corner but passionately contributed and James Freshwater was often found laughing between songs or singing along to lyrics intensely as he worked his drum kit.
Leather jackets went flying off at the start of “Where is My Mind?” a Pixies cover, which Shepard prefaced by saying, “We don’t often play this cover anymore, but we figured, we’re in Seattle, and you guys like to sing along!” Their rendition of the song sounded very similar to the original, with the main difference being, of course, the highlighting of the smooth and welcoming vocals of Shepard. Briefly nearing the end of Lovedrug’s set, murmuring began between Shepard and the band, in which he finished by saying, “Let’s try that one, yeah!” and treated Seattle to “Ghost By Your Side,” from their 2007 release Everything Starts Where It Ends, which strayed from the original set list for the night.
Lovedrug’s finale was bittersweet. The band put on brilliant set mixed with a few old, and many new songs that proved their evolution to be a beneficial one as a live band, but after an erupted applause following their final song, an awkwardness filled the venue as to weather the show was officially over or not. The lights stayed off, but after a short pause for silence, the venue returned to filler background music, which made the opportunity to applaud for an encore a difficult one. Unfortunately, the moment had passed, and after a short but inspiring set, the show had concluded.
After taking nearly a five-month performance break, City Faire was back to open for Lovedrug with lead vocals handled by their newly added Ayesha Brooks. With Brooks, the band presented new songs and a new flair to their sound. Their soulful rock was is complemented now by the powerful chops of Brooks, who seemed to blend with the rest of the band as if they had been creating music together for years. Often times brooks spent leaning on or feeding off of bassist Jacob Yackshaw to her left, or playfully assisting guitarist Larson Haakenstad to her right before he shifted off on a mesmerizing solo.
Raw and thriving, City Faire’s energy back to the stage was more than impressive. Together the four-piece produced a blend of songs mixed with originals that just felt right, with the enthusiasm of a prideful band. At moments, it felt like we were just witnessing a jam session between friends, as their collaboration felt so smooth and organic as they transitioned through their set of songs and separate solos. With their new direction, City Faire is positively going to have a successful summer of touring, for which they plan to travel nationally, beyond the Northwest.
I was originally skeptical of the first opener, C-leb and The Kettle Black, solely due to their band name, but once they began performing everything changed. Their “Urban Blues” rang robustly to the crowd of early attendees who appreciated each effort made by the band.
C-leb worked the front of the stage, owning his title as his rich voice carried the blues-rock deliveries out, sometimes paired with a harmonica. For this night, a new bassist joined the stage, giving C-leb the opportunity to exercise the High Dive’s stage with more animation that normal. Guitarist Jesse Strasbaugh perched near the back of the stage, behind the friendly and expressive drumming from Jazz Turnbow. A few highlights in their set list were the performance of their song “The Celebration” and “Hot Mess” which are both found on their self-titled album, which was released last month.
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