In the hipster culture of the indie music scene, sometimes it can really suck to be a new fan. There is a general mood amongst the crowds of many shows I’ve been to that if you weren’t there from Day 1, you better stand at the back, buddy. And I would be lying if I denied being part of that die-hard fan group occasionally. It’s natural to develop a small sense of ownership over something that you have witnessed grow and flourish. I am happy to report that the mood in the crowd at The Parish on Tuesday night for Canadian quartet Half Moon Run was refreshingly distinct.
As I stepped off of 6th St. and into The Parish, I could hear Half Moon Run’s set beginning. I hurried up the flight of stairs and past the merch table that included branded oven mitts as one of the items for sale. I smiled at first and then began to worry, “Is this a band-related inside joke that I don’t get? Are people already labeling me as a newbie?”
As I approached the back of the crowd, I was surprised to hear people singing along to every word (yes, ALL the way at the back) intermingled with people who didn’t seem to be familiar with the song, but whose gazes were fixed on the stage as they swayed along just the same. As I moved through the crowd, I continued to study the listeners. From what I could tell, the big fans and the newer ones were peacefully cohabiting throughout the entire venue.
Just as I made it to the right of the stage, the band started singing in beautiful, ethereal harmony, which elicited a mixture of loud cheers and hushed awe. These mellow, harmony-rich songs are my favorites in Half Moon Run’s catalog from both of their albums, “Dark Eyes” (2012) and “Sun Leads Me On” (2015).
From up close, I reveled in each member’s ability to multi-task. Devon Portielge’s lead vocals never faltered as he played guitar throughout the whole show. There was even a short stunt involving playing the guitar partly with his mouth (not kidding) during the popular, intense track “She Wants to Know.” Conner Molander on vocals, guitar and keyboard was very popular with the ladies around me. There was a lot of screaming when he couldn’t hold back some dance moves during the catchy, “Call Me in the Afternoon.” Isaac Symonds added beautiful backup vocals, guitar and percussion. Drummer Dylan Phillips (who also contributed vocals during harmonies) took a break in between songs to chat with the crowd saying, “I think we’ve played Austin more than any other city. I finally discovered Barton Springs and went on a nice bike ride, I definitely want to come back.” Before the band launched into the beautifully subdued heartbreaker “Unofferable,” one of the band members remarked, “Hey, didn’t we record this next song in Austin?” Cue the loud Austin pride screams.
A few other highlights of the show included the moody, sensual track “Need It” that really took on a new life being performed live with dark red lights cast over the stage. The folky “Devil May Care” performed only by Portielge and Molander (with the nice addition of a harmonica) was a refreshing, if not a little sonically confusing, crowd favorite. Arguably the best performances of the evening came with the two encore songs, “Trust” and “Full Circle.” Everyone was dancing as far back in the crowd as I could see. As I started to move towards the back for more awkward-concert-dancing room, I ended up next to a nice couple who both smiled at me when we made eye contact. One of them knew every single word, the other seemed to be just along for the ride. But, they were both loving it.
If you are a Half Moon Run fan, I totally get it. Their tour is just starting so I hope you get a chance to see them live, their performance brought a whole new dimension to each song. If you’re just learning about them, as a fellow new fan I can tell you that you’re welcomed to the club with open arms.
Find tickets for Half Moon Run’s international tour here and for more music coverage, follow @corisawordsmith and @shuffleonline on Twitter.