For a lo-fi indie rock band such as Slow Hollows, playing energetic live shows can be a challenge. The genre is known more for its presence on chill study playlists than for its ability to incite mosh pits. It’s perhaps more aptly transmitted through a pair of earbuds than by a stage full of guitar amps.
At its concert at San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop on Wednesday night, Slow Hollows navigated this difficult predicament skillfully. The Los Angeles-based band found its solution by striking a sort of balance between frantic and serene. It squeezed all the energy it could out of its more upbeat songs, satiating an antsy-to-mosh crowd, but during the slower parts of its set, the music joined the reflections from the disco ball and enveloped the crowd to create a relaxed, hazy atmosphere.
Among Slow Hollows’ most crucial strengths was band member Daniel Fox, who added an unconventional element to the performance through his brassy trumpet riffs and dreamy synth overtones — sometimes even playing both instruments at the same time. During “Hospital Flowers,” Fox’s trumpet worked with lead singer Austin Feinstein’s vocals to lend a beautifully dissonant quality. This dissonance was itself reflected in the lyrics: “Does it feel wrong to you?”
Unfortunately, “Hospital Flowers” was one of few songs in which Feinstein’s vocals were more than slightly audible. And while one might expect that the emphasis on instrumentals was a result of some sort of vocal weakness on Feinstein’s part, it was the opposite in this case. When Feinstein could be heard, his talent on the microphone was indisputable.
Sprinkled throughout Slow Hollows’ set was a handful of new tracks, which gave the audience an idea of the trajectory the band’s music will be taking in the months and years to come. These songs, however, were a mixed bag. The first, “Come Back In,” was a fun tune that demonstrated that the group’s sound is maturing, while the second, “Young Man,” was simple and wholly unremarkable.
“Two Seasons,” the last new song on the set list, was the highlight of the evening. Starting out calm and gradually building up energy, the song made much-needed use of Feinstein’s vocal talents. What stood out more than the vocal work was its bass line. Bassist Aaron Jassenoff’s thumping string-plucks served as the primary beat-keeper during “Two Seasons,” allowing tireless drummer Jackson Katz to get creative on the drum kit. If Slow Hollows matches the sound of this track on its other new songs, fans have much to look forward to from its future releases.
The band provided very little in terms of audience interaction between songs, though the crowd — which was clad in beanies, overalls and muted, striped shirts — seemed to have no problem with focusing on the music itself. At one point, Feinstein apologized that he doesn’t “know how to do this in-between,” to which a zealous fan replied, “You’re doing great!”
At the end of the set, Katz, Fox and Jassenoff left the stage, leaving Feinstein alone at a keyboard to perform “Hell.” At this point, any doubts about his abilities as a singer were quelled, as his soulful, trilling vocals, now front and center, filled the room with an ethereal serenity that was unmatched by any other song in the set. In short, Feinstein did one “Hell” of a job.
The audience members, of course, were not about to let the band end on such a slow note, demanding an encore as soon as the final notes of “Hell” faded away. Though they got the upbeat encore they wanted, it was ultimately that solo performance by Feinstein that resonated long after the venue emptied out. The implication for Slow Hollows is clear: You don’t need to be a raging punk band to put on an entertaining show.