May 7th was a night to remember at the Hi Hat, with performances by The Brinks, The Slightlys, and Espresso. The venue’s doors opened at 8 PM and people milled inside. The venue was open and relaxed. The sound of someone playing pool by the entrance mingled with easy conversation. The exposed brick along the walls mixed with the low lighting of the venue and created an atmosphere that was both intimate and cozy. The set times displayed between the bar and soundbooth were a quiet reminder of what was to come. I found a place by the soundbooth to wait with a drink as The Slightlys went through sound check.
The Slightlys cracked the quiet atmosphere immediately with their first song “A Warning.” From their first song to their last, the stage and the audience were alive with dance moves and pop-rock tunes. I overheard people’s impressed compliments throughout the set, though it seemed that most people in the audience knew one of the members in some way or another. “Whoa, they’re good.” “What was their name? I like them.” “They look so young, but…no they can’t be.”
The guys’ ages become irrelevant when they start performing. Finneas O’Connell (vocals and guitar), Robby Fitzpatrick (guitar), David Marinelli (drums), and Darius Dudley II (bass) owned the stage like seasoned pros. O’Connell moved, played, sung, and interacted with the crowd smoothly. Charisma seemed to ooze out of the boys as they performed. My favorite song of their set was “Devil in the Details”–O’Connell’s rich vocals, Fitzpatrick’s amazing solo, and the crescendo in the song were remarkable. But, I have to give Marinelli a shout-out for that number. His playing at the end of the song had the room going wild with cheers.
The Brinks, our headliner that night, brought a completely different feel to the stage. Where The Slightlys’ music is the type of music you blast on speakers during a lively summer day, The Brinks’ style evokes quite the opposite. Matt Friedman (producer) and Scott Mellis (vocals) have created something amazing. The Brinks’ music requires you to be present in that moment and has you swaying without noticing. The hypnotizing and surreal sounds Friedman created seemed to expand the room.
The first few songs highlighted Friedman’s strength as a producer. His intros for “Down” and “Hide Your Love” stand out live. During “Hide Your Love” the keys didn’t fade into the melody and gave the room an otherworldly feel. There were times where the tech overpowered Mellis’ singing at the start of the set, but the guys quickly found a balance.
During their cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” it was just Mellis on-stage performing. He traded guitars and after he made sure it was tuned all right, a soft tune hushed the crowd as he started. The vulnerability Mellis brought to the song was impossible to turn away from. Not to mention Mellis’ vocals live are a surprise worth witnessing. He was hitting amazing high notes at the end of the song. I hope The Brinks record a live album someday, so I can hear Mellis’ incredible vocal range one more time.
The room filled with an easy vibe as they performed. They created a steady back-and-forth interaction with the crowd. Several times, Mellis ‘ca-caw’ed at the audience and they responded. It all felt familiar. As if the audience wasn’t there for a performance but rather a long overdue reunion. The set seemed like nothing short of an ethereal kickback.
Their final song, “Heart Shared,” closed the set with vivid sounds. Mellis’ steady and deep vocals were a lot bolder live. Production was deep and thrumming; complimented by the blinking green, orange, and blue lights above the stage. Their drummer for the night, Anthony Burulcich, was great throughout the rest of the set but he especially killed it during this song. After one of the last, “I see the love you left behind” his playing made the room shake and scream in excitement.
The night ended with another young band with promise, Espresso. Their eclectic sound takes inspiration from funk, reggae, and punk. Everything wound down beautifully and conversations filled the Hi Hat as they closed off the evening. All three bands are on Soundcloud and Spotify if you want to hear them yourself.