Review by Reagan Volk, photos by Brooke Kirchner.
Although Charlie Martin and Will Taylor formed Hovvdy a full decade ago, they jaunted into The Fillmore giddy as ever. The name is an ode to their Texas roots — an unexpected origin story for an indie rock duo. Charlie sported a jean tuxedo and buzz cut while Will opted for baggy jeans, a loose button-up, and a sandy mullet. Since the pair opened for The Cold War Kids, they turned out to be younger than most of the crowd. Their boyish demeanor and easy smiles contrasted the venue’s sumptuous chandeliers and smokey bar.
Charlie and Will brandished microphones and electric guitars while a few others supplied bass and drums. While the duo’s anticipation was palpable, the crowd seemed unsure of what to expect. Hovvdy jumped into their set without hesitation — exuberant, loud, and explosive. While their soundtrack was fresh, their lyrics paid homage to their teenage heyday in Dallas. Music, it seemed, was their vehicle for telling stories.
“Junior Day League” proved to be a standout track, supplemented by Will’s playful attempt at dancing. It recalled nostalgic drives on sprawling country roads with a former lover. Will sang of feeling “cracked like a window” and lamented the indecisiveness of his youth. Rays of violet light washed over the pair as they strummed with relish.
Charlie and Will’s enthusiasm quickly won the favor of the crowd. Even older members of the audience found themselves clapping to the title track of their most recent album, True Love. The song was both dreamy and untamed, referencing colorful houses and twirling dresses. Still, the lyrics expressed a desire for stillness, comfort, and the blissful monotony of love that exemplifies the strange shift associated with growing up.
In comparison to Hovvdy’s antics, The Cold War Kids struck me as so-called “dad rock” with a California-inspired sound. They cited influences like Led Zeppelin and Tom Waits. Although lead singer Nathan Willett would not seem out of place at a backyard barbecue or hometown soccer game, his vocals established him as nothing less than a rockstar.
The group’s dynamic new track, “Heaven In Your Hands,” showcased Nathan’s range and skill in the midst of piano, bass, and drums. In fact, his sound was reminiscent of power ballads by Poison, Meat Loaf, and the other greats. The Cold War Kids were complex and almost sermonic in contrast to Hovvdy’s minimalist lyrics, drawing a distinction between two generations of rock. You can catch both artists in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado on the next branch of their joint tour.