Live Review: KEXP's New Home Benefit with Lucius and Navvi at Tractor Tavern 11/16/15

Live Reviews
Talia Shapiro
All photos by Melissa Wax (view set)

The old Ballard clock tower chimed 8 o’clock Monday night and met a persistent and meandering line of excited music fans, waiting to enter the threshold of the Tractor Tavern, for the sold-out show to benefit KEXP's new home with Lucius and NAVVI. Lagunitas was on tap, with a portion of the proceeds to support KEXP, and the energy in the room was palpable, as first NAVVI and then Lucius, claimed the stage.

NAVVI captivated the crowd early with a rich sound full of dreamy synth, pop melodies, and sonic guitar hooks. The Seattle based experimental, electro-pop band flourishes on duality—their songs offering a balance of live instrumentation with electronic elements, and alternating between light and dark, loud and soft, fast and slow. Monday’s set blended Kristin Henry’s ethereal and haunting vocals with Brad Boettger’s instrumental dexterity to deliver an alluring performance fit to establish NAVVI a strong foothold in the thriving Seattle music scene.

Between sets, the buzz from the growing crowd edged louder and louder with anticipation, and Lucius entered the stage to a frenzied welcome. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, front women of the five-piece indie pop band, wore identically stylized outfits and hairstyles—a signature that runs throughout their performances—to add to their captivating stage presence. Fans clapped, stomped, and sang along to favorites from Wildewomen, Lucius’s 2014 breakout album, and the musicians offered an enticing preview of new compositions from their forthcoming 2016 sophomore release.

After studying together at Berklee College of Music, where they became fast friends and allies, Wolfe and Laessig admit they come from completely different backgrounds—but they’ve managed to build a world-renowned group that balances “yin and yang,” and they skillfully serve up a distinctive sound that’s so much bigger than each of the musicians individually. Through a blend of collaborative, lively percussion, ‘60s pop rock melodies, and modern folk rock instrumentation, Lucius performed “Tempest” for a sweet and energetic start, followed by “Nothing Ordinary” with its pulse of snare drums on center stage.

Wolfe and Laessig share a love of mod vintage style, which made for a visually exciting show, as their intertwining, often synchronized vocals, explored lyrics about taking one’s own path in life. Multi-instrumentalists Andrew Burri, Peter Lalish, and Dan Molad joined the women, and together they drew on their inspiration from epic personalities like David Bowie and Little Richard to ensure everyone, both on stage and in the crowd, had a fun evening.

Lucius engaged the crowd to clap along to the beat as their twanging, emotive vocals explored, “Don’t Just Sit There.” They transitioned into “Until We Get There” with strikingly delicate harmonies and dueling keyboards, before Wolfe and Laessig left the stage mid-song, leaving the remaining musicians to stoke the song’s energy. As the jam took on a rock ’n’ roll backbone, the ladies shed their matching grey tweed overcoats and returned to the stage to finish the song together.

With youthful energy, Lucius captured a sentiment of childhood angst in a catchy new song that had the musicians delightedly jumping up and down while bellowing, “Got a heartbeat like we’re only 16 / Got a feelin’ like a born-again teen.” Then came a special surprise, as Seattle-bred darling Brandi Carlile stole through the packed crowd to join Lucius onstage for “I’m your Dolly.” Together, they each channeled their inner “wildewoman,” and the three singers crooned in heartfelt harmony, “I don’t need you anymore / I don’t need you / Go home.” There was no other sound in the cavernous Tractor Tavern as Lucius launched into a stripped down, acoustic rendition of “Two of Us on the Run” that perfectly showcased the pure, raw talent of each musician. Ending the set with a throwback to the ‘60’s in a cover of “You Were on My Mind,” Lucius once again channeled their love of musical generations past while infusing it with a uniqueness all their own.

Monday night’s positive energy and sense of friendly welcome was fueled by the supportive musicians, a constant flow of Lagunitas, and the warm camaraderie among the audience that counted so many friends of KEXP. Learn more about the fundraising efforts here.

The KEXP fundraiser is just the start of Lucius' Pacific Northwest benefit tour. Each day, they will create a video to document the band’s visit at the benefitting nonprofit organizations the help them continue to raise money beyond the tour. Look for videos on Lucius' Facebook page.

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