Review: Vacationer and The Naked and Famous @Showbox Sodo

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Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer, Photo via Facebook

If you are my friend on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you’re well aware of a new band called Vacationer. About weekly I shove them down people’s throats because, well, I think they’re putting out some of the best music I’ve ever heard. Since not everyone at Showbox Sodo is on my friends list though, a lot of them got to experience the island inspired band for the first time Tuesday night when they came to see New Zealand’s own The Naked and Famous. Based on the crowds collective sway during their set, I think it’s safe to say that Vacationer has won over yet another Seattle Crowd.

Vacationer has been touring non-stop over the past few months promoting their debut album Gone– and it’s evident that this band has come into it’s own since the last time I saw them. Kenny Vasoli, formerly of The Startling Line and Person L, is a seasoned performer but on their previous tour with The Asteroid Galaxy Tour he didn’t really work the crowd while in Seattle- focusing more on performing as much music as they could. Maybe since this tour is done on a larger scale and they had more time for their set, the band felt they had more room to breathe, but Vasoli has truly become a front man. He cracked jokes with the crowd, constantly peppered them with requests to dance, and led the audience singing ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ – as it was drummer Ryan Zimmaro’s birthday. While they may have changed dramatically in terms of working the crowd, one thing that remained consistent is how fantastic they perform their songs live.

Their beachy, freedom inspiring songs really loosened up the crowd- and as their songs really do inspire dancing, I noticed many a Seattlite do just that. Favorite moments of the night include the song ‘Good As New’ and ‘Great Love,’ two songs which are ridiculously upbeat, and undeniably instill the warm-fuzzy feelings that good music inspires. Songs like ‘Summer End’ took the crowd to a slightly more mellow place, with wandering woodwind soundbites throughout. What really made this song special was that it offered plenty of places for Vasoli to harmonize with guitarist Greg Altman, the two voices balance wonderfully off each other and really make the song incredibly special.

The middle of their set may have inspired relaxation, but when they wrapped up their set with ‘Dreamlike’ and ‘Trip’ it was obvious they wanted to leave a deliciously dancable  taste in the crowd’s mouth. And in my less than humble opinion, it really doesn’t get any better than dancing to ‘Trip.’ That song has all the key elements of their distinct sound rolled into 2 minutes and 53 seconds- pacific island flare, sparkling vocals, opportunities for their drummer to let his talent shine,  all wrapped up in a song that sends you straight to summer. It allows Vasoli to reach his comfortably controlled high notes, and also have moments where he really belts into the crowd. His voice was at its finest during this song, and the band had the crowd eating it up- escaping to their dream summer get away spot with the help of this group of four incredible musicians. They ended the night with ‘Be With You,’ and as if a good majority of the crowd hadn’t already fallen in love with them during their previous song, this was the clincher. It’s a mellow, soothing song- full of longing, wishful thinking, and gave the impression that Vasoli and his band mates hated that the night was ending. ‘Until we meet again’ is a lyric in the song, and a sentiment shared by fans who greeted Vasoli after their set.

Headliner The Naked and Famous are on tour promoting their newest album, Passive Me, Aggressive You but there was nothing passive about their performance. This was my first time seeing them live, but based on their record I expected an hour of poppy-synth rock, and the crowd got that and then some. They really are a band that’s better live- it gives a lot more umph to their music. What really stood out was their incredible light show- wherever that set designer is, I hope they’re patting themselves on the back. It set their music and personalities on fire and amped up the crowd in a way typically reserved for electronica or metal shows. Their set was drawn very heavily from their latest record, and featured songs like ‘Girls Like You,’ ‘Punching in a Dream,’ and ‘Young Blood-‘ all songs very familiar to the audience and packing the dance floor.

What was really apparent while watching them in a live setting is the incredible capabilities of female vocalist Alisa Xayalith. She has a stage power not only obvious in her attitude and demeanor, but that is shockingly apparent when she opens her mouth. She has a way of being both a powerhouse and an accent- during one point in a song she’ll stop you dead in your tracks during one of her screaming solos and then a moment later she’ll bring a perfect moment of harmony to male vocalist Thom Powers. With a slightly more metal influence live than I had noticed on the album, I’m very curious to see where their next record takes them. But this is for sure a band that you shouldn’t write off before you see them live.

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