Monday, February 5, 2018

Live Shows: Hallelujah the Hills and The Sheila Divine, Lilypad Inman, Cambridge, MA 2/3/18

Photo via Facebook
This year I'm making a point to try to go to more unique shows. Sure, the two or three band bill of bands I know playing songs from their albums at a rock club will happen, but I'm seeking out more one time experiences this year. Last Saturday, I found one when Hallelujah the Hills and The Sheila Divine played the absurdly tiny Lilypad Inman for an evening of improvised music.

The Sheila Divine have crafted some of the greatest alternative rock in the history of Boston. When you see them live, it's just hit song after hit song from my college years. Since they tend to be such a straightforward rock band, I was curious how an all improvised set would work. I worked surprisingly well, with some trainwrecky moments, of course. Instead of going the experimental noise rock route, The Sheila Divine crafted Sheila Divine songs on the fly, with actual singing and lyrics from Aaron Perrino. This kept the experimentation reined in a bit, with some great jam sessions in between verses. The band announced made up song titles in between songs, such as "Everybody Hates Their Dad." It felt more like the audience had been invited into a practice/songwriting session. Surprisingly, what worked the best was when the band asked for a music style for their last song, and an audience member suggested bossa nova. That led to the loosest, most fun the band seemed all night.

Hallelujah the Hills have had a few weirdo, experimental releases through the years, so their delving into a set of improvised music made more sense, and was what I expected. They embraced the "experimental" aspect of the night, complete with looped sounds and pre-recorded audio. While there were some gaps, Hallelujah the Hills basically played one extended jam session for their forty minute set. Ryan Walsh joked that he had watched the recent Grateful Dead documentary and was now legally obligated to play an improvised set. He also played up the improv aspect of the show by asking the audience for things like a city in Connecticut, a canned food, etc. and then announced they would now play a song using all those elements. Most likely it wasn't the greatest performance by either band, but it was a fun, unique way to see each one that satisfied the bands' die hard fans and experimental music fans alike.

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