I first saw Other Lives back in 2009 opening for Bat for Lashes at the 9:30 Club. It was a chance encounter that not only would shape our little groups philosophy toward concert going (ALWAYS get there for the opener...ALWAYS) but in a large part was the beginnings of the idea to create this site.
What I witnessed then was a band that demonstrated a maturity and a commitment to their craft that, as someone who has played music to varying levels of achievement for over 30 years now, hit on an almost spiritual level. For a while I just couldn’t stop talking about it the band and that show to whoever would listen, which became increasingly frustrating when, for whatever reason, they didn’t immediately blossom into the biggest band in the world. The “southwestern Radiohead” instead slipped quietly from the public eye to become a not-so-well-kept secret of music nerds far and wide.
Jump forward 3 years to last Tuesday night’s sold out performance at The Red Palace, and it’s clear that NOW is the time for Other Lives, and I couldn’t imagine any band more deserving of the success that they are about to have.
People throw around the term genius far too often, and maybe I’m guilty of that here, but there’s no denying that what Other Lives are achieving musically right now is some of the most intellectual, heart-pounding, jaw-droppingly genius rock and roll to grace the musical landscape in quite some time. Their 2011 release, Tamer Animals, was a lush, yet chilly exploration of the interior that swam in layers of texture so deep that instead of trying to pick it apart, one was left with no choice but to float out into its lonely atmospheric tides, to ultimately drift slowly down to its imperceptible bottom.
The thought that anyone could reproduce these sounds live was a fairly mind-shattering prospect, yet for the duration of the evening on Tuesday, the packed house stood transfixed as singer/songwriter Jesse Tabish and his brothers (and sisters) in odyssey brought the tracks “For 12”, “Dark Horse” and “Tamer Animals” to implausible and effulgent life.
In our interview with Tabish a few weeks ago he threw out names like [Philip] Glass and [Ennio] Morricone as some of the primary influences for his songwriting. It’s clear now that not only do those sounds run deep through the music of Other Lives, that that mastery of arrangement is sort of their secret weapon. Whether it was a perfectly placed bleat of a trumpet from band member Jon Mooney, a lithe strum of the autoharp from cellist Jenny Hsu, or an underlying staccato counter rhythm being banged out on the keyboards by Tabish himself, all of these elements, disparate and even nonsensical on their own, came together to become something other, something special...a display of true greatness.
And yet, despite this greatness, Other Lives remain humble to the core. Remarking that he “didn’t want to leave the stage” and humorously questioning his role as a FRONTMAN (Hint: He’s good at it) near the end of the set, Tabish remained alone to perform a stirring rendition of “Black Tables” from their 2009 self titled debut. He was then joined by the rest of the band to deliver a chill bump inducing cover of Leonard Cohen’s “The Partisan”, after which the musicians left the stage to mingle with their adoring fans.
All in all, this was a performance to be cherished. Especially when taken in context of where the band is now. When you consider that tonight (Feb. 27) Other Lives will open for Radiohead in Florida, these final few shows in front of 200 or so people mark the end of a long road for them. Congratulating Jesse [Tabish] after the show, I joked that they may blow Radiohead off the stage on this tour. It was a prospect that he humbly scoffed at, but I’m not so sure that I was entirely off the mark.
The reality is that this opportunity isn’t about competition, it’s about validation. When you consider that over half of the crowd at The Red Palace last Tuesday were under-aged, it’s easy to think back to a time when many of us were being blown away by a small band from England that has now gone on to be one of the most respected groups of musicians in the industry today. For this younger generation, Other Lives is THAT band. They are the next generation’s Radiohead, and NOW is the time when the rest of the world is finally going to figure that out. That’s a pretty good position for any band to be in; much less a band that has the muscle and the heart to back it up, and Other Lives have proven that they have all of that and more.
So congratulations Other Lives. You’ve earned this success and you’re going to wear it well. Just be sure to come down from the stratosphere from time to time to pay us another visit, OK?