Concert Review: Lift to Experience, Devics & The Golden Age (June 22, 2002, Omaha, NE)

Lift To Experience, June 22, 2002

I’m a pessimist, plain and simple. When things look up, I see the cloud in front of the silver lining. And it was doubly so with this show. But perhaps a little background first. You see, Lift to Experience is just one of those bands for me. Those bands whose music you treasure, not just because it’s really good, but because it helps you cope with some of the crap life always finds a way of flinging your way. So, to say that I had certain expectations (and of course, the fear they wouldn’t be met) is a bit of an understatement.

It seemed a little too perfect, how everything fell into place. I found out about the tour, e‑mailed Bella Union, and the next thing I knew, the show was on. It seemed a little too… easy? But I was determined not to let any doubts filter in, a rather titanic struggle for me.

Although the bill originally included The Wind-Up Bird, they never showed up, narrowing the night to three bands. This turned out to be rather fortuitous. So first up was The Golden Age, whom I’ve mentioned from time to time on this site and others. Time for another confession; The Golden Age also carries with them some personal baggage, things that I’ve written about in the past, things I’m finally dealing with and getting over. All that is to say, for the first time, I think I was able to watch The Golden Age free of such weight, and it was a fine, fine thing.

A lazy way to describe The Golden Age is “like Bright Eyes.” Perhaps a better way to describe The Golden Age is “like Bright Eyes without the whining,” as my friend Aaron put it. This is a genuinely good band, with the kind of honesty you might find in, say, Pedro the Lion’s music. Although I’ve heard these songs many times, they still feel fresh to me. The recent addition of a new keyboardist helps flesh out their sound even more, and also frees vocalist Rob Hawkins to focus more on his guitarwork. Also worth noting is Nate Mickish’s slide guitar, which adds the right amount of twang without any country stereotypes.

Now, it’s safe to say that for many people, myself included, Devics was the evening’s wildcard. Most people there had probably heard of The Golden Age (since they’ve been gaining a bit of buzz in these parts) and Lift to Experience, if only because of the proselytizing of my friends and I. Although I’d heard Devics before (their album, My Beautiful Sinking Ship, certainly did a good job of piquing my curiosity), I wasn’t prepared for what I heard that night, nor was anyone else I think.

I don’t think I’ve looked around an audience and seen that many people pick their jaws off the floor since Ester Drang debuted Goldenwest’s songs. Devics held everyone captivated that night, with a set that started off with a sexy Gershwin cover, and just went on from there. They moved from rollicking, reverb-soaked surf numbers to sensual torchsongs to delicate, atmospheric ballads, all with the languid grace that vocalist Sara Lov displayed on stage, eyes closed and swaying to the sound. And that voice! Lov sang like velvet one minute, and ice the next (reminding me of a less babyish Alison Shaw). All in all, a lovely set that even had the lady behind the bar asking questions.

And then the apocalypse was upon us. Lift to Experience… just looking at them, you want to be careful lest they get the wrong idea and trouble ensues. (In truth, though, they’re incredibly nice fellas.) Frontman Josh Pearson looks like a cross between an Old Testament prophet and a gunslinger. Bassist Josh “Bear” Browning’s nickname is the biggest understatement of the year. And drummer Andy Young looks like he’s demolished more than his fair share of kits in his lifetime. (Indeed, I felt sorry for the one he played that night.)

They sauntered onto stage and with nary a word, began building one of the most immense walls of noise I’ve ever experienced. It’s the sort of sound that moves you… literally. By song’s end, you realize you’re standing six inches from where you were when it began. Gradually, the waves of guitar and drums settled into an instrumental version of “Just As Was Told,” the leadoff track from The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. At one point, Pearson leaned back, mouthing words unheard in the maelstrom, but hinting at something Divine being brought into our presence.

It went on for ten minutes, maybe more, before finally abating. And then the real bomb was dropped… only fifteen more minutes. Due to some bad time management and whatnot, the show had started too late and Lift only had a sliver of time left. But in spite of that, Lift stretched it out to 25, and packed each minute with enough sound for ten minutes. On “Falling From Cloud 9” (which Pearson casually introduced as a tale about the end of the world where Texas is the Promised Land), it seemed like the ceiling was going to cave in and angels were doing to descend… or at the very least, my poor camcorder was going to explode from the volume.

Then “Into the Storm” and a double-time version of “These Are the Days” (where Pearson proudly exclaims “we’re simply the best band in the whole damn land and Texas is the reason!”). As the final shockwaves left the venue trembling but still standing, all that was left was Pearson pleading the crowd to follow him “into the Promised Land.”

Despite the small amount of time, and the fact that Pearson’s vocals were often overwhelmed by the music (a shame, because a healthy portion of Lift’s effect lies in their apocalyptic declarations), we still got a glimpse of the Promised Land that night. A word of advice, though, before you reach The Pearly Gates. Bring some earplugs… and a pack of tube socks.

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