Minimalism is key. The gaps between the notes can be the most impactful and, in turn, make the beats and vocals that much more powerful. Marian Hill thrives in this territory, opting to use a minimalist structure to give their music more of a bite and have it stand out. This style was on full display at the Palace Theater on Wednesday. The beats were minimal but with a punch, the lighting was very simplistic (but was all that was needed), and, in some cases, the clothing was… minimal… but more on that later.
The set opened with Michl, who is best known for his song “Die Trying.” The track has gone viral in indie-electronic music circles all across the world. He played with a relatively simple setup, just him at a keyboard with a microphone for a vast majority of the set. This was most definitely a “music first” affair. Some other songs played were “When You Loved Me Least” and his recent single “I’d Do It All Again.” I would most definitely keep an ear to the ground with Michl, I see a lot of potential in his music gaining traction in the near future.
After a brief intermission, Marian Hill took the stage. Full disclosure, I had no idea what they looked like before they actually came out. What I imagined was a tall dark haired woman, with a long black dress that had that usual air of sophistication that comes with those kinds of outfits.
Jeremy Lloyd, the beat maker of the group, had that exact sort of outfit. However, Sam Gongol, the lead singer, was the exact opposite. She was probably no taller than 5’ 2” and came out in something in something I would find at Bondesque in Uptown. However, considering the innuendo-filled lyrics, the outfit was actually right on par for the show.
The “All Ages” designation for the show made me laugh. I swear that some of the kids up at the press barrier hadn’t even finished middle school yet, but kudos to them for keeping up with good music, I guess. It was probably the most age-diverse crowd I have ever seen at a concert.
The set itself was like their tracks. Minimal beats, soft vocals, and saxophone features from Steve Davit. And boy did the crowd love Steve. Every saxophone solo was met with a long “Steeeeeeeeeeeeeve!!!” from the crowd. He even got a chance to have a jam session with Jeremy where he showed off his dance moves to the crowd and the moment served as an intermission in the show. He even busted out a baritone saxophone, which really lit up the band geek in me (I used to play that when I was a nerd).
Sam was excellent in her vocals and was very animated in traversing the stage, often leaping and running around the stage and cueing Steve and Jeremy much like a cabaret singer would to her pianist. This ties in quite well with Marian Hill’s name which comes from the names of two characters, Marian Paroo & Harold Hill from the Broadway musical, The Music Man. Actually, the more I think about it, I’d call this almost a poppy Moulin Rouge.
Marian Hill’s set featured music from all across their discography and included my personal favorite, “One Time,” which prominently features the catchiest saxophone beat ever. “Subtle Thing” also made an appearance as a feature from their newly pressed Unusual which was just released on May 11th. Tracks like “I Want You” and the ending track of ‘Unusual,’ “Go Quietly” were also played. However, everyone, including me was waiting for “Down,” their smash hit off their first LP ACT ONE, which ended up serving as the encore to their performance.
I’d say that Marian Hill was one of the more unique musical acts I’ve recently seen. Their minimal beats, their cabaret-like demeanor and their calm vocals made for a great performance. It translated surprisingly well to the Palace Theater, which is meant for bigger sounding acts than Marian Hill, which, I feel, is perfect for a smoky basement club. I’d recommend checking them out the on their next tour through Minneapolis or at least giving their unique style a listen.