Sound Scene Express

Shel w/ The Wreckids :Concert Review

Concert Review by M&M
October 26, 2013

Club Café always brings in great acts. Its intimate space makes every show feel like it is an invite only sort of set, and caters well to groups that are comfortable being a foot from the closest listener. Being interactive with the audience is something the married duo, Scott and Sarah—playing as The Wreckids—do especially well. On Tuesday, The Wreckids drew us out of our “it’s too cold to leave home” coma, and we were happy they did. As an opening band, Scott and Sarah instantly endear themselves to everyone in the room with a natural back-and-forth banter, which is reflected in songs when they dosey-do lead vocals. They have a new album out, so check back for review and EXCLUSIVE interview of “But They Can’t Take Our Dignity.” If you see The Wreckids opening on a bill, they alone are worth the ticket price, but have never disappointed in their pairings with headliners (usually touring acts). The strength of The Wreckids’ soft acoustic harmonies make them the perfect opening band for other touring acts that don’t hide behind electric, and that’s how we became acquainted with SHEL on Tuesday.

To be honest, before we found out that The Wreckids were playing with them, we’d never even heard of SHEL, but by the end of the night we couldn’t have been more pleased to make the introduction. The group is comprised of four sisters—Sarah on violin, Hannah on keys, Eva on mandolin and lead vocals, and Liza on drums and djembe—and there isn’t a musical slouch among them. The girls opened their set up with “Mad King,” which wasted no time in highlighting what would be a long laundry list of strengths, among them flattery when they related Pittsburgh to places like San Francisco, Glasgow and Dublin. It might be the group’s far-flung travels that influenced their second song of the night, “Lost at Sea” which has a classic Gaelic introduction, the fiddle and drums inspiring even the most Polish of Pittsburghers to embarrass themselves doing (what could be, at least in the movies) an Irish jig. That’s not to undermine the beauty of the song where the harmonies are at once very powerful and emotive, each of the girl’s voice creating a wall of sound like sirens actually luring someone out to sea.

SHEL’s core sound is a dichotomy between traditional world music and a more homegrown country-folk. Throughout the set, their music reminded us of other well-seasoned bands, like Beirut, the Civil Wars, and Nickel Creek. Being mountain people ourselves we were more than fond of their song “Moonshine Hill,” which came with a great story of the band’s first experience with hooch sold in a mason jar. Another feel-good, twangy hit, “Freckles” (available on their new self-titled album) features their signature harmonies and girlishly wistful lyrics, “he loves me, he loves me not…” In contrast, the girls covered Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore,” which surprised and wooed any fan hold-outs. The band did an uncommonly good job of spreading around the spotlight, each sister shining superiorly bright as they transitioned from one song to the next. Vocalist Eva held it down on the mandolin while her sister Hannah performed a piano piece off of her solo album, and later supported violinist Sarah in an instrumental duet. We made the mistake of whispering with Liza while her sisters played, where she revealed that she is a completely self-taught percussionist—and at that moment, Marty and every other drummer in the world hung their heads in shame. Not two songs later, Sarah introduced Liza to the spotlight where she further impressed by beat boxing. NBD. Just another day as Liza, who her sisters “take to parties to make [them] look cool.”

With the conversational atmosphere they created in between songs, and their jaw-dropping talent, we were very happy to have come out to Club Cafe on Tuesday. Despite not knowing SHEL before we’d arrived, we’ll definitely be looking forward to their return to Pittsburgh, when they won’t be able to use slick lines like “THIS song has never been played in Pittsburgh before!” We paid $35 for their new LP (more than we did for some Tom Waits classics), and are happy to report it’s already getting plenty of well-deserved spins. We encourage folks to check them out before they REALLY blow up, and tickets to their next show cost more than their expensive-ass vinyl. We kid. They were nice enough to sign the record which we later found out includes the CD with four additional songs.

Another notch in the belt for outstanding groups we’ve seen because of The Wreckids.

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About The Author


Maddie and Marty Brown, are a married couple reppin’ the Mahnt of Pittsburgh. Known to their friends (ok, so their friends are bribed to go along with the whole thing) as The DahnTahn Browns, M&M keep office hours on the dance floor, and make their living as boogie hustlers. Though Marty is a drummer in a local band, the pair consider everything from Ke$ha to The Temptations, and Tom Waits to Rage Against the Machine as music worth listening to…Marty’s band is good too though. They have two dogs who are NOT fans of punk music, so they have to play anything like that after dog bedtime. They appreciate listening to music with friends, whether it be from their music closet at home, or through an iphone in an Altoid can in the woodz. They had a turntable before hipsters owned them ironically.

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