January 26, 2015 Civil Twilight haunts Rough Trade NYC Brooklyn, NY 1-14-15
After a visit to Rough Trade NYC in Brooklyn, one could walk away with new CDs, vinyl, and even cassettes. But that is not all, as Rough Trade also offers a unique venue experience within its industrial walls. This epitome of musicality boasts a small concert hall and stage among its racks of records, where listeners can purchase a band’s newest album one weekend and come back to see them live the next. Located in the heart of what could be called Brooklyn’s hipster scene, Rough Trade offered fans a chance to see South Africa’s Civil Twilight on Wednesday, January 14th, along with attention grabbing Zeke Duhon and Indie Pop band Knox Hamilton. With a crowd varying in ages from early twenties to late forties, Civil Twilight brought a wide range of cultures and musical tastes to the floors of Rough Trade, ranging from the modern hipster to Punk rocker, and beyond.
The night started with a set from Oklahoma native Zeke Duhon. Do not let his young looks and boyish charm deter – Duhon is already a veteran in the field of music. By the time he was fifteen, he had already finished his first EP and was opening for local shows. With a passionate, acoustic sound reminding listeners of James Taylor or Marcus Mumford, Duhon’s earnest voice and gently spiritual message has already attracted the attention of Grammy Award winning producer Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars) and has signed a major publishing deal with Big Deal Music. Only three months after moving to Nashville, his song “Open Up Your Eyes” got huge airplay on Lightning 100, Nashville’s biggest radio station, and was given the huge honor of being chosen as Artist of the Week in his new city in October of 2013. “I’m a guy who likes to write songs. Hopefully these songs can help in some way,” says Duhon. On that cold night in January, those songs certainly did help get the crowd warmed up as this charming young man took the stage. Armed with two guitars, Duhon started off his set with “Hold Fast” before moving into the more upbeat “Gravity,” showing an amazing crowd interaction by telling jokes and stories in between songs. The highlight of the night was his impressive version of a mash-up between Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” proof that this well-rounded, genre-defying rocker can pull music from anywhere and turn it into a soulful, sweeping melody. Closing out the set with “Faith and Hope,” a song about the mistrust of the government, Duhon cemented his appeal with the crowd, leaving them cheering in his wake. Look for his new EP, due out sometime this year.
Next up was Alternative Indie Dance Rock band Knox Hamilton, formed in 2010 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Looking like the Zac Brown Band but sounding like The Shins and Death Cab for Cutie, Knox Hamilton is made up of long-time friends Bradley Pierce (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Drew Buffington (lead guitar), and brothers Boots (bass, vocals) and Cobo Copeland (drums). They played an uplifting blend of Indie Pop Rock, with laid back guitar riffs, fetching bass lines, light, clear vocals and toe-tapping drum beats. Taking their name from an old yearbook they had found at a thrift store, these Southern gentleman have already released three albums, with their most popular also being their most recent, 2013’s The Great Hall. The single “Work It Out” has made its way to the Top Five on AltNation’s Alt 18 Countdown. This humble tune has a sound reminiscent of Dave Edmond’s “Here Comes the Weekend.” Currently signed with Prospect Park Records, Knox Hamilton was a bit quiet when they hit the stage at Rough Trade, but they warmed up quickly and found their groove with songs like “Set It On Fire,” “No Means Rightfully So,” and their AltNation hit, “Work It Out,” with Boots on the xylophone. After a tremendous show with boisterous, catchy music, Knox Hamilton made way for the big band of the night, Civil Twilight.
Cape Town, South Africa’s Civil Twilight is a transcendental mix of ethereal melodies, a whirlpool of guitars, and impeccable lyrics. With a taste of Nashville in their Southern hemispheric roots, Civil Twilight is made up of brothers Steven (vocals, bass, keyboards) and Andrew McKellar (guitar), Richard Wouters (drums) and Kevin Dailey (keyboards, backing vocals). Wind-up Records has a contract with these purveyors of soul, whose music combines both operatic and alternative elements. With two albums under their collective belts, a self-titled release in 2010 and Holy Weather in 2012, Civil Twilight have had songs played in numerous television shows, including House, M.D., The Vampire Diaries, Degrassi, One Tree Hill and Arrow. They even contributed to the 20th anniversary tribute to Nirvana’s Nevermind by covering “Come As You Are.” Compared to a combination of Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke, Steven’s vocals are haunting, a mysterious descant that brings to mind early ’80s U2. Certainly no longer a secret in the Alternative Rock world, the audience was buzzing in the moments prior to Civil Twilight’s arrival.
Taking the stage in Brooklyn to cheers and frenzy, working the audience up into a lather with crowd favorite “Fire Escape.” Although they came to hear the songs they were familiar with, the throng on the Rough Trade floor lapped up the newer material with excitement. The crowd sang along with new songs “Story of an Immigrant,” “When When,” and older tracks “Doorway” and “Oh, Daniel.” The highlight of the show came during the encore, when the powerhouse musicians played “Human,” one of the band’s more famous tracks, and their cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop.” This was followed by “Letters From the Sky,” the gloomy, baleful song featured on 2011’s I Am Number 4 movie soundtrack. Known for his unique sound, Steven’s voice did not waver once during the show as he fearlessly hit every high note. Full of energy, the band put on an amazing performance, their set list both a highlight of new material and a harkening back to the fan favorites. Frontman Steven McKellar ended the show with the promise of a new record.
As one of their five stops in January, Civil Twilight rocked the anxious New York crowd with mystery and nostalgia, and will continue with shows through the Midwest until the middle of March. Although Rough Trade is a small venue, the energy and emotion the night of January 14th was huge and the band warmed the hearts of all who made it out. After some downtime between touring, this fall Civil Twilight will stay active playing around the USA with American Alternative band Mutemath, so be on a look out for big things from this fast rising act.Photo credit: Charles Eames Photography