photos by Ryan Johnson
Every once in a while, you make it to a show where you have little idea of what to expect, and even then it still blows away any expectations you could have had. One example of this for me was The Hotelier’s headliner this past Thursday at THE GARAGE.
After unfortunately missing Loone and Strange Relations, I caught Told Slant’s set. The Brooklyn four-piece occupied the stage with a look straight out of IFC’s Portlandia. Although fashioned in overall-shorts, tight, rolled up pants, over-sized flannel, and the most indie haircuts imaginable, the band presented themselves in a way that showed they weren’t just fitting the indie-punk mold, they were helping to shape it. Felix Walworth fronted the band, standing center-stage with their strange drum set, made up largely of a beat-up kick drum mounted on a stand. Together with their band mates, they sent goosebumps across my skin with each emotional, lo-fi track. Walworth sang passionately about identity crises and relationships, physically trembling and letting their deep voice crack with each hurt line. The set came to its peak when they shyly asked the audience to repeat, “Isn’t this silly and aren’t you beautiful,” making the seventy-five-person room feel entirely full as we sang back. A remark that “I’ve been doing this for what… eight years, and I think I’m getting worse at talking to you through a microphone,” only made them more endearing.
The Hotelier began with a simple introduction. They stated their name, how the show would operate, and that “this one’s for those complainers,” because we finally did it. We finally got them to Minnesota. Opening with the first two tracks (excluding the album’s intro) off their newest record, Goodness, which was released that night, the band worked out the kinks with the mixing and got into their groove just in time for “Your Deep Rest.” It was here that I realized how justified complaints of The Hotelier’s absence in Minnesota was; this band means something to people. Even if the room wasn’t packed, it didn’t matter, each and every person present shouted every poetic word back at them. It wasn’t so much a performance as it was a group therapy session, making many of the faces around me gleam smiles. An uneasy task for a song about a suicide.
The band carried on playing a mix of tunes from Home, Like Noplace is There, and Goodness. The latter providing one of the show’s highlights, “Soft Animal.” The progressive song, showcased the band’s cohesiveness as they slipped into each change as a unit. Shouts of “Fawn doe, white snow,” paired themselves elegantly with Christian Holden’s cries of “Make me feel alive, make me believe that I don’t have to die.” The magic of The Hotelier’s songs didn’t come from a memorable chorus, it came from the depth of the words and the music’s subtle sophistication. “Sun,” featured the band facing each other, making eye contact that seemed to be a learned communication between the longtime bandmates.
A string of four Home songs ended the night, giving the fans one last opportunity to show their undying connection to each syllable. As a newer admirer of the band, I’m counting the days until I am able to once again join the devoted in singing along with The Hotelier.