Tongue Tied Lightning’s self-titled debut (see “Aural Pleasure,” August 19, 2009 for our review) is musically dense, stacked with three-pronged guitar arrangements, pianos, fiddles, mouth harps, etc. Tonight, they’ve got two guitarists and a marimba player onstage.
To be more specific, Aaron Patterson and Andrew Moreland are multitasking, splitting percussion duties between them. Patterson kicks the bass or stomps a set of sleigh bells while he strums his acoustic guitar, and Moreland handles the snare while playing electric lead. The marimba’s really too big an instrument for Danny Hawkins to go one-man-banding it but he still manages to make the instrument do the work of at least three others.
On opener “Hush,” for example, Hawkins provides the missing low end, giving Moreland a base from which to launch his resonant guitar fills. On “Keep Warm” Hawkins plays the marimba like a honky-tonk piano, a loose twinkling foil for the polished scruffiness of Patterson’s vocals.
“Pull Me Out” suffers only a little for missing its noisy experimental intro, probably unduplicatable tonight with such a light lineup, but the relative sparseness transforms the song from a sort of countrified prog-pop to an unkempt jam, just sloppy enough to fit in with the low-key crowd. The only two people standing up at this point are Hawkins, by necessity, and a tiny towhead boy, who gets down to dance to the song’s “Here’s my handle, here’s my spout” chorus, probably excited because he knows how this song goes.
“A Lie” is a simpler song, easier to strip down, though its transition from upbeat instrumental to downtrodden shuffle to ironically cheerful bounce works better with a full-time drummer. “ Blow winds,” Patterson commands, “sail to gold hills and peace of mind,” but a “loss of love’s warm hand” leads to a refrain repeatedly pondering “Am I a lie?”
“We’re going rockin’ now,” Patterson says before the band launches into “Is There Anyone Left?” and they do. Moreland and Patterson stitch riffs together like a folksy patchwork quilt honoring the ’70s rock gods while Hawkins plays the marimba like Jerry Lee Lewis might, but Patterson’s melodic howl steals the song.
Hawkins goes solo for his rendition of Eric Sammut’s “Caméléon” an aptly named shape shifting piece that slinks quickly from avant classical to music box delicacy to ballet grandeur. A few people in the audience chatter through the beginning, but they quickly shut up. “That’s my cousin,” Patterson says proudly over the applause at the end. It was exactly that kind of night. — Jeremy Martin