Aaron Behrens and the Midnight Stroll at Warehouse Live, 12/14/2013
Side projects are far from a new thing. Actually if you think about it, a huge conglomerate of the bands we listen to are, or were originally, the side project of some other band. From Led Zeppelin and Cream, through Temple of the Dog and the Breeders, to Gorillaz and the Dead Weather, some of the best bands of our vast musical history come from other bands. Hell, even Skrillex is a side-project (of a post-hardcore group, at that).
Well, yet another guy with ideas that didn't fit into his original band put together yet another band and headed over to Warehouse Live for a scantily attended Saturday night showcase. Aaron Behrens, the newly shorn vocalist of ever-so-popular Austin dance group Ghostland Observatory, brought his new group of guys, The Midnight Stroll, to a Houston stage for the first time.
The show was nice and short, but what was packed into the 45 minutes the Stroll were onstage was an unexpected onslaught of incredibly fun and danceable indie-rock tunes. There has never been a question to what Behrens can bring to a live stage, and on this night he was undoubtedly front and center from start to finish. What was most surprising was that he seemed to be born to front this band.
Don't worry, Ghostland Observatory aren't going anywhere, but while they're taking a bit of time off, it's really cool to see Behrens putting his efforts into something so good and fitting to what he does best.
Behrens' love for and confidence in these songs was so high from the get-go that it brought an instant ease to the room despite the crowd's meager size. It was much more toned-down than what we've come to expect from Ghostland, but Behrens still brought the same exact amount of energy -- it was the perfect change of pace from the knob-twisting of Behrens' normal collaborator, Thomas Turner, and brought a smoothness to the music that you can't really get out of a synthesizer. They were soulful and on-point, and very Austin. Exactly what you'd expect Behrens' side project to be.
The music was fun. It was that type of show that all ran together. Not because it was bad, but because you were so into what was going on that you didn't realize that the whole set just went by. I expected it to be sloppy and lacking depth in the material, but it was the complete opposite, more like Behrens had been holding onto these tunes for some time, not necessarily sure if they were right for his normal project, but finally, when GO decided to take a break, he busted them out from wherever he was hiding them. Boom. Polished and ready to go.
Behrens even escaped to his acoustic guitar for a song, one that found him more vulnerable than I've ever seen him. Usually shrouded in hats and braids, and with a wall of sound from Turner, it was a rare but satisfying change of pace to witness such a stripped-down side to the usually indefatigable front man.
Review continues on the next page.