HAZEL ENGLISH + KERA AND THE LESBIANS @ THE BOOTLEG
Photos by Stephanie Port Words by Kyle Smith
Hazel English played a headlining set at the Bootleg atop her buzzy 2 x EP = 1 LP Just Give In / Never Going Home. While the album cuts are drenched in a sunny indie pop that have gained broad visibility this year, English & co. struggled to create the same ambience in the live setting.
There are many successful acts that rely on frequent pulls from the same sonic tapestry (Beach House, I’m looking at you). But such success stories are unique; it ain’t easy to make more of the same sound so compelling. Hazel English isn’t there – yet.
Based on her LP, and templated moments that defined her set, English is capable of tapping in to the breezily cinematic, even the artful at times. But the story lines felt loathe to diverge from a redundant plot.
A great majority of the new tracks position English in the course of three minute dialogues with a lover or former lover. When not communicating outwardly so, she turns within, returning to ask herself about those other dialogues.
There were moments suggestive of evolution. On “Make It Better,” the band took things in a slightly more angular direction as Hazel’s words hinted at the fickleness that often provides youth its struggle. In “Fix,” there was a whiff of moodiness. “I’m Fine” brought out a strong 80’s vibe, and started with English solo on guitar, which in and of itself felt refreshing. Otherwise her vocals, although pretty, were so distant that they amounted to a pile of mumbles and coo’s.
The oxymoronic titled of her LP may be telling. Hazel English appears caught in between disparate directions. Should she stay or should she go? Her steadfastly shimmery set was entirely inoffensive, but ultimately it suffered from the degree to which it was simply non-descript.
Perhaps it isn’t fair to expect more from an artist still cutting her teeth, but still I hope that next time through town Hazel English will harness more of her album’s beauty in to a livelier energy.
Opener Kera and the Lesbians stole the show with a set of their self-dubbed “bipolar folk.” Led by the dapper Kera, her expressive gesticulations, and fierce drumming from Brian Marquez, they proved that this bipolar folk moniker falls short of what actually is a unique genre meld. On a few different songs, aviary digital loops were snuck in behind the band. As one concertgoer mentioned, Kera herself appears as a mix between Patti Smith and Sid Vicious. One could lazily stuff them under that oceanic label of “indie,” but you just don’t see indie with this kind of welcome energy.
Hazel English Setlist
It’s Not Real
Make It Better
Love Is Dead
Come On Let’s Go (Broadcast cover)
More Like You
Never Going Home