Going to Homecoming with Topshelf Records

When Topshelf Records rolls (back) into town things are bound to get loud and moody. A late show with a four band bill is asking a lot during the holiday season but Great Scott received a packed room beaming with hometown pride and the rowdiness that accompanies it. Queen Moo, People Like You, Slingshot Dakota, and Prawn pulled their influences across a wide variety of genres, but the night was stitched together by the threads of technical skill coupled with raw energy.

Kicking off the show was Queen Moo, a Hartford-based quartet that are locked in and loaded. Listening to their songs will bring a sly grin on your face; there’s no hiding the element of the rogue in their sound, even when it’s dressed in suspenders and sweaters. Guitarist Jason Rule brings a gritty vocal tone that seems directly lifted from the early days of rock’n’roll which is tempered by that of bassist Kevin O’Donnell. Altogether it’s crunchy, if not bordering on biting, but there’s a whole lot of the smooth sexiness that can only come from wailing guitars. Be sure to keep an eye on this bunch the next time they roll through.

While Queen Moo provided the element of the unfamiliar, People Like You are the Boston darlings that we just can’t get enough of. Their album Verse was one of the year’s local standouts, bringing all the precision and nuance of jazz partnered with indie’s anxious angst. Normally vocals are the driving force of most of the shows I attend; it’s a testament to the writing, especially how well the band is able to pack in musical motifs throughout, and each member’s musicality that vocals are able to blend so seamlessly into the rest of the mix. Drummer Sander Bryce and bassist Sai Boddupalli provide an incredibly solid live foundation while Tassey’s keyboard and crystal clear voice interplay with that of guitarist and vocalist Chris Lee-Rodriguez, countered by Matt Hull, who could blast his trumpet directly into my eardrum and be met with thanks. Build me a cottage and let me dwell in People Like You’s music forever.

Whoever introduced me to Slingshot Dakota rudely forgot to mention that they are a duo so last Thursday’s show gave me that initial shock to the system. That was quickly followed by the one brought on by the monstrosity that is drummer Tom Patterson’s kit. Carly Comando’s keyboard was no joke either – there were enough effects packed into that thing to disorient any listener. It was at this point that the night kicked into high gear. Comando’s sequin jumpsuit and Patterson’s enviable locks were considerable hints that this set would not err on the side of subtlety but the restraints came off entirely from the get go. The duo trade-off between creating fuzzy elements and puncturing through the dense sound they have created without stepping on each other’s toes. There’s considerable interplay between the duo and anyone in the audience, so it was appreciated that Comando made note to respect each other’s space, only adding to the amount of respect that the band commands.

Prawn lead their set with “North Lynx,” building lush guitars followed by drums, finally punctuated by Tony Clark’s nasal vocal lines, floating above the swirling entity below. It’s the same effect that happens on the next track in their setlist, “Seas” off of their 2015 split with Moving Mountains. Prawn vacillates between listing and churning, dragging the crowd along with them for the journey. Sometimes there’s the seemingly self-propelled thrill packed into “Why You Always Leave a Note” or anger that unleashes itself on “Rooftops,” but overall their sound just exists. Their live show contains the same feeling of timelessness that is contained within their newest release, Run, somehow reflective of moments and lifetimes. The night was cut slightly short due to vocal strain but still functioned as both catharsis and reassurance, releasing the crowd at Great Scott with a renewed sense of present.