with opening act, Sun Room
October 7, 2021
It’s impossible to describe the genre of Stop Light Observations, so much so that in several discussions of the night, no one could really relate the band’s style to similar artists. That’s just who Stop Light Observations is; they’re not pop, they’re not rock, they’re SLO (Stop Light Observations). The closest thing I’ve heard live recently may edge them towards Rainbow Kitten Surprise territory with their styling, but it’s still not quite there. Recordings of their music do them a disservice as you cannot feel the energy and excitement they bring to the stage, even on a rather uneventful Wednesday night at a dive bar. The boys from South Carolina are on a mission to carve out their unique tone and style in the music world and they’re going to achieve it with gold stars.
What possibly makes their live performances so good is the sharing of the spotlight on stage. William Blackburn (lead vocals), John Keith “Cubby” Culbreth (piano/guitar/synth), Luke Withers (drums) and Will Mahoney (bass, for the most part, all took leads during the night, energizing the crowd with a solo here and there, and even Mahoney letting a fan slap his bass strings closer towards the end of the night. SLO all felt as if they were intertwined gears in a transmission, working together to produce some of the best sounds to keep the night driving. The chemistry during the shows could be attributed to the band’s age; they’ve been at this since 2011 and have had one or two additional members come or go since then.
The band was plagued by some audio issues in the first few songs, but without a keen eye, you wouldn’t know it. By the time they got to a fan-favorite, Security from their 2016 album TOOGOODOO, the crowd was ready for all they had to bring to Austin, Texas. It’s a very different song played live vs. how you hear it on Spotify or iTunes. The recorded version has relaxing tones, what sounds like a xylophone, and whispers from Blackburn. The live rendition is as if the band was actually screaming for security to come and rescue them from a fan on stage. It’s loud, it’s proud, it’s their style. And that was the case for quite a few songs during the night, which repeats my request to you, please see them live and take their recordings with a grain of salt if you’re on the edge to listen or not. Their energy (not tone nor style) is best described as English punk-rock. It’s not quite grungy as you would feel from a garage-bred band from some small town in the UK, it’s slightly more relaxed and dialed back to a 8/10. Their show is dialed in to match them perfectly.
The only critique of the night was that it felt as though the drummer, Withers, could have had some more lead with either a solo or possibly mid-song transition. While he played with gusto, it felt as though he could have been possibly replaced and no one would have immediately known. His talent really shines in their curtain-closer, 2young, but it felt as if it was almost too late to bring out his great beats. Come on SLO, let him shine!
Accompanying and opening for SLO was a group of young surfer rock bros from California. Opposite of SLO, the band named Sun Room has a very clear and distinct style. Luke Asgian (lead vocals/guitar), Wyatt Flom (bass/vocals), and brothers Indy (drums) and Ashton Minnich (lead guitar/vocals). And funny enough, they’re exactly opposite of SLO in terms of their recordings vs. their live performances. Their opening set was great, so don’t take that as a negative against them. They just have a hyper-tuned surf rock style that generally has a lot of bright, airy energy found both in the recordings and replicated on stage. The best way to get introduced to this band is on a summer morning cruise listening to their top song, Sol Del Sur.
As with the main band, the only critique I can give to the guys is to loosen up their on-stage presence. While they’re playing chilled surf rock, they seemed rigid and stiff throughout their set. It’s likely nerves, and that’s totally fine. This takes time and is difficult even for the top musicians to get over. I think they could really get the crowd more engaged and wanting more if they acted how they played. They’ll get there. Give them time, give them a listen.