Neutral Milk Hotel shows are sold out almost everywhere. The Orpheum Theatre in Boston was no exception. I was lucky enough to take in the second show on January 17th, 2014. Elf Power opened for NMH, and within a few songs Andrew Reiger (guitar-vocals) engaged the audience. When someone jokingly called out “Freebird,” the band looked a little more comfortable for the banter. Reiger ventured further telling a story about one of their better known tunes, “Walking With The Beggar Boys,” the title track off their 2004 album by the same name. Reiger composed the song in Warsaw Poland where he befriended beggar-kids that kept him up all night running outside his hotel. It’s a tune that has some heft and seemed to center the band locking in their groove.
Laura Carter is a multi-instrumentalist indeed, on one song playing a Moog while holding an electric guitar ready to strum and singing. Their material is heady — it can travel from heavy bass and Moog rattling the rafters to whispers of electronic sax or the brashness of real brass and accordion. They fit well with Neutral Milk Hotel and they’re part of the Elephant 6 collective.
Reiger, impressively, was on a twelve string electric for most of the set. Thematically, songs are often dark, about dread and lust, phantom limbs and social complexities. Their sound wanders through sixties territory falling into the genre of psych-rock with heavy fuzz coming out of the Vox as Bryan Poole aka The Late B.P. Helium lays down fine runs on lead guitar. He handled back-up vocals with aplomb, and I just gotta say -never shave those Wolverine lamb chops – never.
Elf Power’s rhythm-section comprised of James Huggins (bass) and Peter Alvanos (drums) kept the band on course. Down home progressions cascade in layers cresting into sonic tapestries evocative of the late sixties Beatles Yellow Submarine at times. Elf Power is a band you can submerge into and wake up dreamy. They’re currently touring to support their new release Sunlight On The Moon (2013) from Orange Twin/Darla. The album was an NPR pick of the year.