Sunday, August 2, 2015

Blisses B at Bottom of the Hill– A Concert Review

     Bottom line concert review: When the muscles used in forming your smile are fatigued after a performance, it’s an undeniable sign that you had an exceptional time. At the Bottom of the Hill, Blisses B presented a muscle-fatiguing high energy kickoff of the weekend.

     Discussions about sports, (particularly baseball) almost always result in the use of superlatives, such as best, fastest, and most powerful.
     Discussions about music are far less likely to rotate around superlatives. There are plenty of reasons. Music lovers are typically less entrenched in their beliefs. And it is difficult to argue that the numbers support your assertion of “best artist” when music for the masses is far easier to generate than music that has a shelf life longer than the attention span of a young teen.
     On the other hand, music lovers and concert-goers are very comfortable with talking about favorites. Over the last 18 months, during which we’ve seen more than 300 band performances, our favorites include:
   A favorite festival format: Bonnaroo.
   A favorite guitar performance: War on Drugs at the Fillmore.
   A favorite vocal performance: Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine) at the Bridge School Benefit Concert.
   A favorite flat-out fun experience: Blisses B at the Bottom of the Hill on July 31, 2015
     It’s not by accident that a Blisses B performance is best described as a fun evening of good music. Instead of just entering the stage like other bands, the four members of Blisses B walked through the Bottom of the Hill with instruments in tow, until they were near the entrance of the venue. It wasn’t easy, particularly since the instruments included a bass (fiddle, not guitar). The opening song was performed at a good distance from the stage. This start had more than one positive influence. It immediately showed that the band is approachable. Most bands must go through at least a few songs before achieving the chemistry with the audience that Blisses B had with their first note. And the start had the effect of inviting everyone into the performance, even patrons at the far end of the venue. Interestingly, instruments used in the opening song (the bass and banjo) were not used after the band went to the conventional position on the stage. 
     Still, even the best jumpstarts will only carry a band for a limited time. No problem, Blisses B continued to entertain after reaching their rightful position on the stage. The four members are Noah Libby (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo), Benjamin Keegan (keyboard, guitar, mandolin, vocals), Evan Bautista (drums, percussion), and James Touzel (bass, vocals). The mandolin playing by Noah Libby was far beyond the mere strumming that is typical of bands. Mandolin “hooks” are uncommon and are always a treat when a band has the skill to use one effectively.
     The band is strong when Ben Keegan is behind his keyboard, but springs to another level when he grabs the guitar (often moving from a Folk feel to the Rock genre, as in the song “Figurative Light”). The blend of vocals is entertaining, particularly when James Touzel makes his contributions. And the percussion of Evan Baustista plays a major role in getting the audience to shed their inhibitions and dance like nobody’s watching – pay attention to the percussion at the start of ”Well Lit Plan.”

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