When local bands Antlerhead and Stay Outside played the Hi-Fi on August 2nd, they reaffirmed what music teachers always tell their students. One of the fundamentals in music is feeling. You can’t teach it. You can’t fake it. It just is. Even so, feeling elevates a performance more than all the fancy tricks and studio magic ever could. Howlin’ Wolf’s meat grinder yowl was hardly easy listening, but his raw sorrow made you hang on every word. The giddy joy in Tiny Tim’s falsetto wailing made him the toast of Greenwich Village. Feeling connects performer and audience, feeling holds a listener’s attention.
Antlerhead and Stay Outside certainly understand that much. Both proved unafraid to show just what they were feeling. Both forged a connection with the audience. They transformed what could have been just another local indie show into a memorable evening.
Antlerhead took the stage first. Their energy and enthusiasm radiated from the stage, always moving, never still. They danced, they bucked like broncos with six-strings, they capered.
Energy like that, feeling like that, is infectious, and the crowd loved it. Antlerhead isn’t breaking new ground genre-wise, they’re strictly alt-inflected indie rock with a stripped-down feel. They are likewise pretty average musicians. But, the obvious joy they perform with charms enough to make their live shows fun.
Stay Outside is possibly one of Indianapolis’s better local bands. As Antlerhead cleared off, the crowd packed itself tighter, their necks craned and gazes intense. They were not disappointed. Where Antlerhead made do with enthusiasm, Stay Outside boasted some fairly impressive musicianship. Most of their songs rely on the interweaving lead and second guitars for the majority of the work. There is a drums and bass arrangement, of course, but its role is standard rhythm. Stay Outside also used a synth for effects, which they integrated well. Aaron Becker’s emotive tenor completes the ensemble, regaling the audience with wanderer’s tales and songs of hope.
Laying aside their musicianship, Stay Outside brought a genuine and enthusiastic stage presence to their show. The universal themes of their lyrics, plus the openness they projected, resonated with the audience. They were just as enjoyable to watch as Antlerhead, perhaps more so.
That said, Stay Outside has a few peccadillos holding them back. Aaron Becker’s voice is powerful, and communicates the proper emotion, but is too Journey-esque to mesh with his music. As for the music, this is perhaps where Stay Outside frustrates the most. Many times, Stay Outside seems on the cusp of something special, but backslides into pop cliché. A hackneyed drum riff destroys a wonderful build-up, a misplaced vocal effusion turns things comical. In sum, there is a definite kernel of potential, but Stay Outside needs to even out its sound.
To conclude, whatever their faults, Stay Outside and Antlerhead gave the audience an evening well worth the Uber fare. These are both artists that understand that feeling and the ability to connect are essential for a live show.That they are essential to any kind of performance. That understanding makes them artists.
Keep listening, everybody.