The new single “Desperate Dance” from the once LA-based/now Grand Rapids-based band In The Valley Below is both a forward-thinking rock/pop anthem ready to rock the rest of the summer and an appropriate title for the move I’ve been doing since I last saw the band back in 2013 at SXSW. The band was just out of the gate with a debut single at the time, but it wasn’t simply their newness that got my attention in a sea of buzz bands for a week in Austin. The band – primarily made up of Angela Gail Mattson and Jeffrey Jacob Mendel – practically gave me shivers at the Lustre Pearl with their expansive baroque pop sound that was difficult not to fall for. With “Peaches” and “Neverminders,” this was a band I knew would keep my thumb on for some time, and I’ve continually championed their successes into 2018 and have anticipated every release, so it was delightful to have found that they are out again touring in support of the new single and a new album on the way.
The duo, along with drummer Joshua Clair, played a packed house at the Moroccan Lounge Tuesday night. The hour-long set felt loud and large without actually being that, with the band expanding their baroque roots like taffy and giving way to deeper and more resonating rock stylings. Opening with the call-to-action “Stand Up” and playing a bit from their debut album “The Belt,” Mendel ruled his guitar and vocalized while Mattson dove in and out of light, occasionally shaking a chain like on “Searching For A Devil” or soulfully crooning to her mate on stage during “Bloodhands” and “Lover.” They were as equally impressive as when I first eyed (eared?) them five years prior, and they provided the same rush I felt about an exciting and fresh new band that I hope continues to push their boundaries.
Weird is the least I could say about LA-based musician Mikey Mike, the opener. His music, which has gained some cult following locally, is admittedly catchy but mostly head-scratchy, with really offbeat lyrics that sound as if they were made up on the spot to a more serious song that already existed somewhere else. They did the most to amp everyone up and they did find the humor in it all, particularly in the adornment of a wheel that would be used later in the set as audience members would spin it and see if they had to take a shot of his Jim Beam whisky out of his shoe (one patron did) or if they had to drink the bath water he bathed in (she was spared – and instead had to light his chest hair on fire). Considering the mixed bag of style the band had, it was fun to see a band not take things so seriously.
Photography: David Fisch