New Orleans’ newest music venue, Gasa Gasa, has been putting on consistently great shows since opening last spring, booking indie rock bands and acoustic singer-songwriters that often get overlooked amongst the city’s wealth of jazz and funk bands. Last Tuesday, the Freret Street club was packed with devoted fans of Indiana rock band Houndmouth as they played one of the best shows to hit the city in a long time.
The evening started with the country tinged ballads of Andrew Combs, who took the stage with a Nashville drawl and cowboy hat. Calling to mind alt-country heartbreakers, like Ryan Adams and A.A. Bondy, Combs delivered a carefully paced set that started quietly and led to some rousing country sing alongs.
Combs started the show with just his acoustic guitar and his whiskey-worn voice for some captivating readings of his haunting country tunes. After a few songs, sound from the rest of his band slowly materialized to add some muscle and volume that got the crowd moving while still retaining the heartfelt lyrics of the quieter songs. The mournful pedal steel particularly complemented Combs’ drawl and added a layer of beautiful heartache to the songs. After teaching the crowd an infectiously simple chorus, Combs and his band closed their set with the upbeat “Emily” and got everyone singing and stomping like they were in a Nashville honky tonk.
Indiana’s Houndmouth have been building quite a bit of buzz over the past year, and their rollicking set at Gasa Gasa proved the attention is well deserved. As soon as the band took the stage, it became clear that they had learned a thing or two from their labelmates and recent tour partners, Alabama Shakes. Like the Shakes, Houndmouth taps into a certain timelessness that makes their music sound both ancient and modern at the same time. The set kicked off with “Penitentiary,” one of the band’s strongest songs that featured the perfectly layered four part harmonies and crashing crescendoes that would recur throughout the set.
Houndmouth manages to be a true band in the collective sense, working together as a cohesive unit to build their anthemic, joyous songs from the ground up and avoiding flashy solos. Each member demonstrated their impressive musical chops by playing different instruments and singing lead at different points; nonetheless, the band was always working together to push the songs in the right direction. All four members were clearly having a great time throughout and could barely contain their excitement when they introduced “Ludlow” when they announced, “This is the song we got to play on the David Letterman show.”
After honoring the encore shouts for “One more song!” the band swapped instruments once again to play a rousing rendition of The Band’s classic anthem “I Shall Be Released.” Although so many modern bands look to The Band as a model of timelessness and democratic creativity, Houndmouth offer a genuinely shared vision of what a band can be. And like The Band, the well kept secret of Houndmouth won’t be a secret for much longer.
Andrew Combs: “Emily”