2/15/14 – Middle East Upstairs

The last time I saw Grey Season, they were cramped in the tiny basement of an Allston house that had some poorly attached Christmas lights lining the tops of doorways. They’ve clearly gotten a venue upgrade since then. This time, they played the Middle East Upstairs — but their show still retained that same homey atmosphere.

Grey Season’s performance was high energy from the very beginning; even before the first song, lead singer Jon Mills was already encouraging the audience to dance. The rest of the performance showcased the band members’ skills on several instruments. Matt Knelman switched off between playing the electric and the acoustic guitar, cranking out some bluesy riffs as well as hardcore solos. The band’s bluegrass vibes came from Chris Bloniarz plucking away on both the banjo and the mandolin — his country strumming is always a staple sound in Grey Season songs. On the bass, Ian Jones gave the music a more ominous undertone, sometimes opening songs with a deep booming drone only to surprise the audience a few bars later with a banjo melody. Even Ben Burns would occasionally set down his drumsticks and, from behind his drum kit, strum out chords on the banjo in his lap.

Even with all of these different sounds filling the room, however, Mills’ unique raspy voice still stuck out. His vocals sounded a little more strained than on Grey Season’s recorded tracks, but in a way that you know he must have been singing his heart out. Perhaps the best part of the show was when the boys put down their instruments and sang five-part a cappella harmonies, like on the song “Mama, You Been On My Mind”.

The general atmosphere of the Middle East felt like the inside of a pillow fort. Little paper lanterns hung on the archway underneath the Middle East sign, connecting two larger paper lanterns — a sun on the left and a moon on the right. Although this was most likely a literal interpretation of the name of the band playing next, The Sun And The Moon, the cozy ambience it created matched Grey Season’s style very well. The lights dimmed and faded to the beat of the music, adding a visual energy to the band’s musical energy on stage.

When the band moved onto “Rosalyn”, one of their few slow tracks, the majority of the audience knew all the lyrics and sang along with Mills, filling in Grey Season’s already full sound. There was something almost spiritual about being in a room of people who were truly bonded by the music. Even during this slow waltz, the tiny club seemed like it was about to burst with the band’s energy. It just might be time for Grey Season to move on to a bigger venue yet again.

Grey Season Makes Concert Venues Feel Like Your Bedroom
Pros
  • High energy
  • Played well as a group
  • A cappella sections were on point
Cons
  • Performances could vary more from their recorded tracks
8.5Overall Score

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