Following a band like Motopony is no easy task. The Seattle quintet are full of energy and charisma, and if you ask them to open for you at your album release show, then you must damn well believe in your own music—and the weight and space it can hold with an audience.
This is exactly how Portland’s Ezra Bell felt when they celebrated the release of their debut full-length album at Mississippi Studios on Saturday, May 26.
Not intimidated or fearful in the least that Motopony might somehow upstage them before their big party, there was no way you could take anything away from the performance that was set to follow the stellar opening set.
The room went quiet as Ezra Bell took the stage—not even a shadow of the noise that Motopony had just created seemed to still exist. What is special about any Ezra Bell show is the intimacy that the band are able to create within the five-piece band, and this show was no different. The communal vibe they created on stage spilled right into the crowd, and soon people were quickly singing along with the gang vocals, clapping their hands and stomping their feet along with the band.
Benjamin Wuamett’s (vocals, guitar) ability to tell stories through song is intimate, riveting and inviting. There’s a sweetness in the somber lyrics that makes you want to dance and sing along with joy—and the crowd did just that!
Wuamett's skilled storytelling was the center of the intimacy in the room, and during a song like “Let Me Do The Talking” from the new record, it felt as if he was talking directly to you, having a conversation with hundreds of individuals at once. “I want a $40 haircut. I want a duffel bag full of money. I want to know where you were last night,” he sang.
His thoughtful and witty lyrics were met with tasteful and complementary instrumentation from the band, who provided a depth that can fly right over your head if you're not paying close attention. The musicianship within the band is what brings these stories to life. Tom Trotter (drums) and Darren Moore (bass) held it down rhythmically, creating a pocket that always served the song. On this particular evening, Moore bounced back and forth between standup and electric bass while multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Asay (tenor guitar, piano) and Aaron Mattison (saxophone) added flair and feel, with tasty lead lines and perfect accents, to help set the tone of the story. To add to the band's special album release performance, they invited Seattle-based vocalist Honora Hildreth to take the stage with them. Hildreth sang beautiful harmonies and, at times, stole the show with her powerful vocals that had the crowd swooning.
There is a way to keep a crowd captivated for an entire set of music, and Ezra Bell accomplished it once again. Whether it’s through their masterful storytelling, high-energy stage performance, or frequent interactive moments that invited the crowd to become a part of the experience, this band hooks you in and leaves you as eager to hear the next song as you were to hear the first. —Dan Cable