The Holidays, oh the Holidays. It's a time of year when music becomes a point of reference rather than its own entity, inciting feeling and prescribing mood. Touring slows to a crawl in comparison to its summer antithesis and one might find his/herself attending a show as a result of boredom rather than inquisitive necessity. This was mostly the case over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, where in the midst of Pecan pies, College football, unnecessary High School reunions and pre-emptive Christmas shopping, the trio called Little Joy nestled into a cozy show at The Parish in an effort to inject a little bit of their namesake into the weekend.
The Saturday night that saw Austin at its breezy coldest in sometime, started off with a feeling of juxtaposed excitement as a good half of the city found itself cheering on rivals in hopes of a better BCS standing. Collective roars of derision and whole hearted consent followed my group's trek from post-Thanksgiving tacos and Mexican beer down the pre-soiled streets of 6th in the direction of what is to some, one of the best venues in town to catch a show: The Parish. Heading up the stairs to the stage's 2nd floor home (atop the still vacant Cajun dance club below) we were greeted by an immediate intimacy. The Parish has a cozy, dimly lit wood & brick motif that welcomes with the warmth of whiskey as you move through the red glow of low-hung Chinese lanterns.
Being a little early as we were, there was time for a coat check and a glass of warmth before moving up amongst the mid-size crowd. Their quiet hum welcomed us with open arms just as the prominent trio of players emerged onstage. The petite frame of a one Binki Shapiro leading the way for a bearded Rodrigo Amarante and a fresh-faced Fabrizio Moretti, who welcomed us all to the affair.
"We drove a long way to be here tonight, but we've come all this way to be here," Moretti knew how to wrangle us in, Longhorn banner in-hand. Apparently they all got there early enough to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with their "Uncle Joey," who the band was more than happy to plug with a giant "Jersey Represent!" at the end. This only added to the intimacy and familial tone of the evening.
Amarante began the show with his easy and romantic voice introducing the night with the last track from their album, the Portugese number, "Evaporar". It was a nice little number, but maybe not one to start the set out on, at least you might think in any other circumstance. The mood was sort of like being at one of those house parties where everyone is waiting with anticipation for some event to happen, then out of the corner of the room someone starts to serenade the group. Slowly emerging from the buzz of the room the lightly picked guitar and warm voice come and before you know it everyone is drawn in and focused in on the nook. And a nook The Parish soon felt as Amarante's smooth voice winded down and the jubilant guitar riffs of "The Next Time Around" started up. From then on we were all treated to, dare I say it, a nice little slice of joy to start of the evening.
It's readily apparent from a listen to the album, and it is only felt more so live, that Little Joy is a band that shoots straight when it comes to their music. There's no real innuendo, there's no beating about the bush. When they title their band and album Little Joy, they literally mean there is a little bit of joy wrapped up in the inches of plastic and cardboard. Being in the live atmosphere, plugged in and blasting out of sound systems only improves on the upbeat numbers and being amongst a small crowd of music loving individuals only helps out the softer moments. Amarante's voice works to the advantage of a sound that will be easily compared to that of The Strokes, partly because of Moretti's presence, partly because they sound like a happier, softer counterpart. So too does Shapiro's voice help in differentiation, her soft and sweet tone compounding over happily bright melodies. And what a little joy it is to see that aside from his percussive talents, Moretti can actually play a good lead guitar as well. Granted he's not shredding the strings, but his work on tenor guitar is impressive enough and adds everything to their sound.
Covering pretty much the entirety of their catalogue and a cover of a Binki's mother Helen's "Walking Back to Happiness" (she's sounds a dead ringer for Ma Shapiro) they kept the set short and left everyone grinning in the end. Other highlights to the night were mostly the upbeat numbers, "How To Hand A Warhol" "Brand New Start" and "Keep Me In Mind", while personally "Shoulder To Shoulder" stood out for me.
With a sound that is evocative of the easy swing and orchestration of the 50s and early 60s, it's easy to see where the enjoyment is derived. There are elements of Gainsbourg and Sinatra in there and a healthy dose of rock supplied by the day jobs of both Amarante and Moretti. However, I think the most important thing drawn from a night in which the mood was set early on is that a Little Joy is always needed around the holidays.