Nightlands, a Philly-bred band, played at The Drake this past Monday, filling the always-cozy venues with their ambient-dream songs.
Openers were Bernice, Toronto-based and led by the charismatic Robin Dann (vocalist). Her voice nearly overpowered the instruments, and her stage presence was otherworldly. She created an almost continual stream of ambient music by bridging the songs with poetic performer/audience banter; she compared the Drake to a warm bath, and admitted that she’s “actually totally unaware of what’s going on right now.”
Stand out songs were “How to be French” (the title Wikihow-esque, the tune über catchy) and “Body Motivation;” both can be found on their 2011 album, What Was That? Keeping up with the lovely weirdness that is Bernice, Dann let the audience know that you can find their music online, singing “online” in a high falsetto that made the bassist (Colin, who was on crutches) laugh. Indeed, you can find them here, but should probably see them here, as their stage presence brings a whole other energy to their music.
Nightlands took the stage just before eleven, opening with “So It Goes” (Oak Island, 2013), stretching out and making beautiful the Vonnegut truism. They followed it up with “All The Way,” their 7” single (2011), a song that exemplifies the band’s talent for appearing completely mellowed out, but at the same time igniting their songs with exquisitely timed surges of power. The saxophone was key to this balance, while also nicely complementing the the “ooohs” and “aaahs” of Dave Hartley (vocals, guitar).
The psychedelic part of their music is perhaps best captured by “Looking For Rain,” while “So Far So Long” accounts for the indie rock portion, and both were highlights of the night. Some of the older dudes in the audience appreciated them covering Fleetwood Mac’s “That’s All For Everyone,” but my favourite was the song they closed with, “300 Clouds” (Forget the Mantra, 2010). The saxophone became an extension of Hartley’s crooned out “around you,” a quality the recorded version is missing, though either version offers up an exceptionally pretty song that did make the Drake feel like a warm bath—though Nightlands’ music could easily fill a swimming-pool sized venue.
Post-show, Dave was kind enough to collect the signatures of his band members—working extra hard to track down Jesse (keyboards, vocals), the “good-looking one”—and chat for a bit. Check out the photos and take a listen to the tracks up on the band’s bandcamp page!