The sun, slowly dipping in the background of Phillips Brewing’s back yard, descending the world into darkness, feels like an apt metaphor for the performance that Lord Huron brought to close the first day of Phillips’ Tilt! Joy and beauty, mixed with darkness and frailty, is the through line that runs through Lord Huron’s song writing and on stage display; as the evening progressed, it was clear that this group had come to do their best for the thousands in attendance.
The opening song Love Like Ghosts began with the harmonies and moody atmosphere that is the signature sound of so much of their song writing. This could have felt like a somber beginning to a closing set, but the group’s intensity, fills up the space and makes even their darker, moodier, songs have energizing feel. It becomes even more powerful when they follow up with higher tempo songs like Meet Me in the Woods. Though dealing with no lighter themes lyrically, the energy moved everyone in sight. This is the great paradox of Lord Huron, they can infuse dark themes of mortality and the human condition, with danceable folk rock, never pandering, and always moving.
Their take on the genre is unique to them. It is like auditory impressionist painting, flowing in and out of itself, yet never losing any one part. Each member plays a role in providing the colours and texture of the sound. It is hard to pinpoint who is doing the heavy lifting in creating their iconic sound. Mark Barry creates interesting rhythms that have a seemingly effortless intricacy, though they are far from simplistic. Misty Boyce adds moody harmonies, to each and every song, as well has fantastic keys work. Brandon Walters and Tom Renaud pair well together as the main guitarists. Tom’s slick slide work and experimentation with sound led the group with an almost alien ambiance, while Brandon backed him up with rhythm and hooks that slip under the radar to keep each guitar part lively and full. Miguel Briseño, brought this together with his smooth bass, both electric and upright, and sometimes even the mystifying theremin. All together the whole of the instrumentation, creates what could be a soundtrack to a psychadelic western.
If this were only an instrumental group, that would be enough to delight, but Lord Huron’s frontman, Ben Schneider did a great job of bringing energy into a very chill leaning musical experience. He clearly has a distinct voice that matches the vibe of the arrangements they have. Smooth and silky but with a near twang that helps it not disappear in the mix. Though he kept his conversation with the crowd to a minimum as they were on a tight curfew, he kept the audience guessing with his performance, especially at one point in the set coming out in a skull mask. Though the lyrical themes he presents are often dark, that did not keep him from creating an energetic atmosphere. In fact, it is the songwriting at the end of the day that truly draws you into Lord Huron. Every song feels like a fairy tale, or a lucid dream: mystical yet grounded, a blend of metaphor and daily life storytelling.
After the encore was shouted for the band came back to the stage to finish the night as strong as they had started it. Schneider stated to the whole crowd, “Until next time, may you live until you die.” These seemed like the most fitting words to have end a Lord Huron show. Somehow hopeful and somber en equal portions. A hope to live fully, and a recognition of the end. That same bittersweetness was exactly how you felt as they left the stage; the end was here, but it was lively while it lasted.