Finding it hard (not) to smile: A night out with Lovelytheband
Words: Danielle Shull / Photographer: Ibby Morris
Lovelytheband returned to Atlanta on Friday, May 10, playing their first headline show in the city after a massive turnout (15,000 people which vocalist Mitchy Collins says is still their largest to date), at Music Midtown festival in the city a year prior. Along for the ride, the Finding it Hard to Smile tour also features LA based indie-rock artist Jagwar Twin and Swedish electro-pop duo Flora Cash.
With such a dynamic line up on the Finding it Hard to Smile tour, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the crowd or the energy but it turns out it was perfectly suited to the venue that it occupied (and impressively sold out). Walking in the doors of the Buckhead Theatre brings an air of invigorated history, the very building embodying vitality and steeped in the past. The audience was brimming with excitement but well versed in the older music being played between sets- vigorous singalongs to Sweet Caroline and Bohemian Rhapsody so loud the crowd drowned out the record offered a great warm up to an energetic three set show.
Though he is a skilled producer with nearly a decade of industry knowledge under his belt, this tour marks the first for Jagwar Twin. When the band accompanying Roy English to make up Jagwar Twin took the stage, it was everything I would expect for a main act. The excitement, energy and cheers were overwhelming in volume and intensity and it was contagious. Rightfully so, at least for me since I’m as big a fan of Jagwar Twin as I am of Lovelytheband.
But I was wholly unprepared for the ethereal energy that Roy himself exuded when he danced out from side stage and began singing. Everything about this man is contrary to how he appears. Dressed in extravagant patterns and bare-chested, the sharp featured blonde seems hard and aloof. He is anything but, soft voice and soulful eyes constantly searching for connection, he gives as much as he takes from the crowd. At every point during their set, he gave as much energy and focus to engaging the crowd as he did to his elegant vocals. Roy’s sweet smiles of pride and gratitude could be felt in every single track he sang and resounded in the closing message of his set: we are a unified group of people, having different experiences in the same place and we need to lift one another up. We are one. And it certainly felt that was as they wrapped their set with the lead single Loser, off their debut album Subject to Flooding. Every word sang back to him so loudly that our voices drowned him out in the most beautiful of ways.
Though not every date on the tour featured accompanying acts, we were one of the lucky dates to get to experience both talented and intensely different artists. To be quite honest, when I looked at the date list, I failed to notice and was pleasantly surprised but unprepared as I knew nothing about Flora Cash. For every bit of ethereal energy and intensity that Jagwar Twin offered, Flora Cash took the stage with a romance and energy all their own. The two piece Swedish American duo utilized chrome mannequins and strobe lights to complement their electro-tracked set and beautifully complementary voices. The pair is comprised of Cole Randall and Shpresa Lleshaj, both skilled vocalists with fantastic energy and engagement.
Their set was bright and playful, and their chemistry was contagious. The crowd leaned into their affectionate spark and intent focus on one another, and we all danced along. Shpresa lifted her glass to us and led us in a Swedish cheers, which was a really fun and endearing element to their show. Self-described as “dream pop”, the whimsy and buzz of their stage presence kept everyone raptly attentive to their delightfully uncommon sound. Their final track, You’re Somebody Else, was their breakthrough single that saw them on several network shows and gave the audience an opportunity to sing along.
I really tried to start this with something that didn’t sound like fangirling bullshit but honestly, Lovely blew me away. After a failed adventure to see them last year, this was a long-awaited set and it was well worth the wait. I watched half their set from the pit, and the second half from the balcony which afforded me a generous dual vantage point on both performance and crowd interaction. When their neon lips logo lit up the first time, they hadn’t even taken the stage but the air in the room buzzed a little brighter too. By the time the three piece band graced the stage, the crowd reached a fever pitch and the band gave it right back to us.
Aside from the energetic word-for-word engagement between crowd and band, the theme of the set from start to finish was acceptance and inclusivity. Lead vocalist Mitchy Collins waxed poetic about his intense gratitude and joy for our energy in the packed venue- the largest of the tour by his memory, and entirely sold out. He made a point to talk about the importance of self care, mental health advocacy and how unreasonable it was that anyone ever thought they had the power to tell someone else who they could be or who they could love.The message of the band both on this night and largely on their album and in their media presence was one of love and open conversations.
Side technical difficulties with a microphone just a couple tracks in, the show went off smoothly with guitarist Jordan Greenwald delivering an engaging performance and offering up lots of smiles for the crowd, and drummer Sam Price taking survey of the crowd’s devoted feedback and energy from his place at stage left. Managing to balance such serious and important conversations with a hefty dollop of gratitude, Lovely also found time to sprinkle in some birthday celebrations for their crew, a fashion show of bracelets, hats and scrunchies thrown on stage (that pony looked great on you, Mitchy, and we’re still mad you took it out) thrown on stage by fans. Driven by a lyrically and sonically strong performance, the night ended with celebratory confetti and a sense of incredible satisfaction at a show well played.
Not a moment of this show disappointed me, musically or energetically. I danced my ass off, sang my heart out and I even cried a little. Walking out of the venue that night felt like hope ( it smelled like adrenaline and the stale beer some guy spilt in my friend’s shoe, but that’s neither here nor there). Three artists across a spectrum of genres each brought a message of soft unconditional acceptance, togetherness and love. I felt every bit of that building’s hundred years of history, amplified in the message of three bands who want nothing more than to make it a little less hard to smile in this world we share.