The College’s All Acoustic Alliance (AAA), with the help of several other sponsors, hosted the indie-folk duo Tall Heights this Thursday at Goodrich Hall. With a suggested donation of $5, all proceeds from the benefit concert were collected for the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield, Mass. The organization offers shelter, counseling, education and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The concert continued the trend of smaller coffeehouse events happening around campus this year.
Several student performers opened the show. Paul de Konkoly Thege ’14 began with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “May This Be Love (Waterfall),” and Jack Bequeaith ’16 performed an original song in his signature grunge rock style. The performer improvised impressively when the necktie he was using as a guitar strap broke mid-song. A quartet then performed “La Corrida,” a French song, with Normand Bigendako ’17 on lead guitar and vocals, Pedro Roque ’14 on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Jeff Jeon ’17 on drums and Cornelius Chandler ’17 on bass. The romantic song represented an underrepresented genre and was much appreciated by the audience. Next, Lucy Davis ’16 brought her clear alto to sincere, original lyrics.
Taking a break from song, Cinnamon Williams ’16 and Tirhakah Love ’15 performed a spoken word poem about domestic abuse, titled “Love Story.” Vivid imagery and perfect vocal synchronization made the poem strikingly memorable. Ruby Froom ’16 contributed an original song about the pains of growing up, the first pianist of the night. Steven Yannacone ’17 also performed a piece about “drinking too much and losing everything.” However, Yannacone pointed out the audience could interpret the piece as they wish. Jonathon Burne ’17 and Maria Galvez ’14 concluded the student portion of the night, inviting the audience to join in their duet of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Tim Harrington and Paul Wright of Tall Heights then shortly took to the stage. Founded in Boston in 2010, Tall Heights definitely belongs to the indie folk family, evocative of Fleet Foxes, The Lumineers and the Williams alum band Darlingside. The pair certainly looked the part, with Harrington wearing a vest and Wright wearing a plaid flannel, chukka boots and both sporting short ponytails. Tall Heights distinguishes itself within the now crowded genre through its poignant harmonies and pairing of guitar and cello.
Tall Heights’ lyrics are sometimes melancholy, often narrative and always earnest, about serious social and personal topics like unemployment and the aftermath of failed relationships. Both artists sing individually and in harmony, especially in choruses. Their higher voices, sometimes in falsetto, are grounded by their accompanying guitar strumming and especially by the lower cello strokes.
The group opened with “I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know,” a rolling song with a quick, easy tempo. The song remained cohesive without becoming repetitive through variations on rhythm and melody – especially intriguing when the pair callled, “I Don’t Know” back and forth.
“The Hollow” was slower and more pensive than many of the band’s other songs. Broad, drawn out vocal notes reminiscent of country drawls, set against quicker guitar, making the song particularly beautiful. Harrington’s steps against the floor added a deepening percussion dimension to the song. The band continued the trend of intimate, poignant lyrics and interesting musical compositions with the more complex songs from their new album, Man of Stone, reflected their acquired maturity since their EP.
Tall Heights’ cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” was the most divisive song of the night. Adapting such a unique and popular song to Tall Height’s particular brand of folk was ambitious, and may have been more or less enjoyable for various audience members depending on their loyalties to the original and appreciation of innovative interpretations. When the pair invited the audience to whisper along to “that was just a dream” might have been a decisive moment in each individual’s evaluation of the cover – some found it electrifying and others banal.
While their music rarely failed to entertain, Harrington’s commentary between songs was odd at times, perhaps something he will refine with experience. As the night went on the pair grew more comfortable and charismatic. The audience clearly did not hold any of the slight awkwardness against the band, summoning them back afor an encore with a few audience members giving a standing ovation at the night’s true end.
Tall Heights has enjoyed significant success since their December 2011 visit to the College, when they handed out their EP “for the price of a ‘like’ on Facebook.” This time, the pair sold their recently released full-length album Man of Stone for $10.