Houndmouth at The Bluebird Nightclub 12/03/15.
I couldn’t think of a more fitting drive for the concert I was about to attend. I left Lexington, KY a few hours before sunset and headed northwest via I-64. From there Maps proceeded to take me through Houndmouth’s music. A little over an hour in I was met with Louisville, KY along the Ohio River. A quick detour into the heart of the city took me by a couple of my favorite places. The Kentucky–themed-gift-shop “WHY? Louisville” happened to be closed that day so I made my way up Market St. to one of my other favorite places-Louisville Beer Store. “1” delicious sour beer later I headed back to the car to continue the trip to Bloomington. But before I departed I gazed across the street and noticed a store called “Bermuda Highway”. I remembered a friend telling me that this was Katie’s, the keyboardist and vocalist of Houndmouth’s, store. The shop is a music-centered boutique, selling new and vintage clothing. Unfortunately I was pressed for time and didn’t get to visit, but this was the first of several reminders of the band’s presence in the area.
The doors at the venue would be opening at 7 o’clock and it was already nearing five. I did NOT want to miss the opening act. The, always wonderful, Moon Taxi of Nashville, TN would be joining these Hoosiers tonight. So, I entered The Bluebird Nightclub into Maps and plugged into the audio jack to crank up Houndmouth’s sophomore album Little Neon Limelight. Now, I knew that just across the river from Louisville I would encounter New Albany, Indiana where Houndmouth was formed. I did not know, however, that the drive was not all Interstate Highway. Just past New Albany, Maps suggested that I take exit 119 onto East U.S. Hwy 150 toward Bloomington. If you’re ever fortunate enough to take this stretch of road, do it. About 20 miles up the road from New Albany I came across a town on the map I couldn’t wait to visit—Palmyra. On Houndmouth’s first album From the Hills Below the City, the song “Palmyra” closes the set. Listening to the song before, I always pictured the personified version of the title. Her skin “olive and tan” keeping the Cherokee bloodline long-living. Yet, now, passing through this small, farming town in Southern Indiana: I wondered if the four-piece was referring to the land. I admit the Sun was setting perfectly over this already beautiful landscape, but I definitely felt the lyrics differently. This was God’s country.
I continued north along 150. At this point I was much more than “Halfway to Hardinsburg”. Literally, I passed the sign welcoming me to Hardinsburg, Indiana only to be thanked for visiting seconds later. I can only imagine this was the town that helped to inspire the title for the eleventh track on From the Hills.
The sun was now below the horizon and I was pulling in to Bloomington. It’s Christmas time and they have decorated the downtown Courthouse Square with a canopy of lights. With little traffic, the venue was easy to find. It’s located at 216 North Walnut St., just off of the square.
I was right on time. It was 7:30 when I got in line. By 7:45 I was standing at a merchandise table with a Bell’s Two Hearted in my hand. Here I met Amber who would hook me up with a poster from the Houndmouth show in Covington, KY. Due to a packed house at the Madison Theatre I wasn’t able to locate merchandise and was glad to see that I could still get a badass screen print by Nate Duval to commemorate the November experience. Amber was also nice enough to hold on to the poster AND my coat for me during the show.
At this point I made my way towards the stage. The club was really starting to fill in and I wanted to be as close as possible for what I knew were going to be two great performances. As promised, at promptly 8 o’clock Moon Taxi took the stage. They would begin their set with one from their new album Daybreaker titled “All Day All Night”. While many were rocking out to the Nashville rock, you could sense that the majority of the crowd was anxiously awaiting their Hoosier Heroes. The lyric “run right back to Tennessee” just didn’t have the impact that it will when the taxi returns to NashVegas on New Year’s Eve.
Now it was 9:30 and the crowd was roaring with excitement. Those of us in the front were in for the long haul. Most of us were now double fisting, knowing that another trip to the bar would be out of order. No way we were gonna leave this rock show.
And that’s when we heard it. Over the speakers the Indiana University fight song began blaring as the band took the stage. Chants of “We will fight for the Cream and Crimson, for the glory of old IU!” rang out through the small, intimate venue. Matt appeared first, rocking a silver blouse, clean- shaven. He was soon followed by both Zak and Shane. Zak’s black t-shirt reads “That’s Ms. Bitch To You” in pink. Then… the always Lovely, Katie Toupin took the stage. She has on a frilly, Mustang Red dress that comes up just above the knees with midnight black stockings underneath. The women in the audience go crazy at the sight of Katie, signifying their love for her.
“Black Gold” couldn’t have come soon enough. The rock show was underway! Those from nearby Louisville hollered and hooted at the lyric “There’s been an accident on 23rd and Preston.”
They then slowed the tempo down a bit with a song from their freshman album titled “Come On, Illinois”. On the last chorus the crowd belted along “It’s a long way, just to make it to the Borderline”.
It wasn’t until the fifth song that we got our first real slow cut. “Honey Slider” begs of listeners to stick around and have a dance and drink. By now the band was in full swing and during “Houston Train” they went into full rock mode. Matt’s guitar jam was very apropos as he had just mentioned visiting the Bluebird with his grandfather to watch blues musicians as a kid. Sticking with the locomotive vibe they moved on to “Comin’ Round Again.”
Then it was ”Palmyra”. The tune was definitely medicine to the ears. The lyric “She took a Kentucky shower, in the pouring Tennessee rain” struck a chord with nearly everyone in the Indiana venue.
After a quick wardrobe change, Matt returned wearing an old school Indiana University jersey. As a University of Kentucky Wildcats fan I couldn’t bring myself to cheer for this, but appreciated it nonetheless. With his arms showing now, we could see his photon ray gun tattoo on his right bicep.
At this point, I’d like to state how much Bigger BOTH of the bands playing this venue are than the stage they were playing on (not to put down The Bluebird, but size matters). Both acts have appeared at numerous festivals and certainly have accolade coming their way. Yet this was the most comfortable I had ever seen the four piece Houndmouth. It was as if THIS was a moment where they realized they were making it. That they were filling a club they had grown up attending. For them, this was the good life.
We danced and said it like we meant it. Those who have spent time in South Central Kentucky ate up a line about Mary Anne and her tight blue jeans. We drove from miles afar, but not in vain. We let them in.
“Gasoline” would be their 12th song and Katie Toupin would sing. The crowd was silent as she sang about possibly meeting her maker on a bedroom floor.
The set then ended with “Penitentiary” from the first album, followed by “Sedona”, the first track off of Little Neon Limelight. It was a full out sing along and the crowd hit every “So Bright and Pink” in response.
Before the band could even leave the stage the audience began cheering encore.
“For No One” would be the first of three songs. Once again the crowd was quiet during this slow song, only listening to the lyrics.
Katie would go on to sing “Casino (Bad Things)” next. Growing up close to Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, Indiana; I reckon the band was somewhat influenced by the little old ladies just up the road pulling levers, their hearts locked in gold.
To end the show they would play “My Cousin Greg”. The chorus to this song would stick with me on my drive home. As I returned to Kentucky through Indiana darkness I was reminded, “If you wanna live the Good Life, Well you better stay away from the limelight”. I decided to stop at Horseshoe to drop a couple of dollars into the machines and listen to “Casino” through a pair of headphones. As I entered the casino I noticed the manufacturer of the moving sidewalk taking me there. A company named Otis out of Yonkers, New York had manufactured the walkway. As I finished my drive home to Lexington I sang along, “Sugar in the morning, gotta get on up!!! Listen to the sound and you gotta get on up.” Oh, how beautiful music, and driving back roads, and people, and music can be.
How to make a Robert Roy.
- 5 oz. Scotch Whisky
- 5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
- Dash of Angostura Bitters
- Serve neat or on the rocks with a garnish of lemon twist and/or maraschino cherry