Hey Marseilles raised the energy at Iron Horse Music Hall

By Araz Havan

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The atmosphere change at the Iron Horse Music Hall was electric for anyone who had felt their eyelids drooping before Hey Marseilles went on stage at 11 p.m. Saturday.

The dance floor was nearly empty when the opening band Young Buffalo filed off the stage after playing a solid set to a seated audience, yet, when the members of Hey Marseilles were spotted setting up their instruments, empty drinks were left at their tables in order for fans to grab a closer spot.

The band opened its set with “Demian,” a moody instrumental piece that bubbled under piano keys that recalled a Debussy composition. Whispers from the audience stopped as the piano was slowly joined by the other instruments. The buildup was immense, filling the room with a palpable tension until finally it burst. The result led to cheers and claps from those who were familiar with Hey Marseilles’ playing style, and wide eyes accompanied by approving looks by those who were newcomers.

Many of the band’s songs followed this recipe of buildup, tension and explosion. The effect was exciting and kept the audience awake throughout the late show. Some of the songs were of the mellower persuasion, like “Cannonballs” from the group’s first album “To Travels & Trunks.” These songs focused more on constructing the music around the lyrics and painting an image, and it was here that Hey Marseilles really shone. Fans were enchanted by the separate world the band sang about.

At times when the music pushed the volume level – and it often did – Matt Bishop’s voice was hard to hear under all the instruments. The trumpet blared loudly and together with the drums threatened to cover up notes from the viola, but Hey Marseilles was undeterred and the audience didn’t seem bothered.

Mixing in tunes from the band’s second album with its first had even the seasoned fans appeased. Placing “Tides,” from “Lines We Trace,” before the more popular and older “Rio,” which preceded “Bright Stars Burning,” kept the audience’s interest from waning.

Lead singer Bishop charmed the people at Iron Horse as he cracked jokes and continuously thanked everybody for coming and staying up late with the band. While he was shorter than many of the other band members, he was a strong presence, with his clear voice and his confident guitar picking worked a certain magic on the audience. During a break in the songs he told the audience that the first time the group played at the Iron Horse “there were about eight people.”

To the nearly packed Iron Horse, the members of Hey Marseilles were just as entertaining to watch as they were to hear. The members of the band had stage habits that came from being immersed in their music. The drummer kept his eyes closed for most of the set, as did the cellist. The viola player danced along to the music when he wasn’t playing, but was more serious when he did. The second guitarist, who also was in charge of microphone effects, was nearly bent in half when the music became too large for the room to handle.

The show was well received, and Hey Marseilles proved to its growing fan base that a bigger venue is needed to capture its larger than life sound.

Araz Havan can be reached at [email protected]