I’ve never been to the Cutting Room in New York, but I was definitely excited to venture off into Koreatown and find out what it was all about. As I walked in, I would have never guessed that this was a music venue. There was red velvet everything in the restaurant with dim lighting and tea lights on every table.
Inside the back room, the stage area had a giant mantle as the backdrop with red velvet curtains like some sort of theatre. Abstract art lined the walls and there were chandeliers on the ceiling in addition to a huge mural like in the Sistine Chapel. I was glad I put on a button-down shirt before I left the house.
Arkansas natives, Knox Hamilton, automatically had the room in high spirits with their charismatic southern charm, especially lead singer, Boots Copeland. Between each song, Boots would offer an anecdote while they tuned up or just to talk, really. He told us about how they loved New York City and how it’s always good to them, although, the actual city itself is not always good to them. Every time they’re here, they always end up with $800 worth of parking tickets. Instantaneously following the story, Boots seamlessly alluded to the location of their merch table.
I really dug the song, “Beach Boy.” They tied in these surfer-esque guitar riffs for this one. It was super addicting and had this dreamscape-feel to it that had me missing laying out on the beach with a nice cool breeze. Their single, “Work it Out,” was really great too. It was danceable, clap-able, and a completely catchy tune alltogether. I have not been able to get it out of my head. I just keep hearing Boots singing over and over, “I know what your feeling when you’re falling apart, I know how you’re feeling when you’re breaking my heart.” I loved the little xylophone intro Boots does; I was wondering the entire time what that would be used for. They also played a slower song called “Barely Missed You” which I opened up to embrace all of the feelings he had for me.
Halfway through their set the crowd started to converse with Knox Hamilton. Boots professed, “This is the most beautiful crowd I’ve seen. I love your face, love your clothes.” Someone from the audience rebutted. “You say that to all your venues!”
Knox Hamilton’s music was definitely enjoyable and audibly pleasing. They’re sound is in the same happy-go-lucky indie genre as Phoenix, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Foster the People. They had some funky bass, playful high-hat and snare combinations, bright twangy guitar tones, and synth/electronica loops. Boot’s voice was pitched pretty high but soared perfectly above the music and even blended in seamlessly with their instruments at some points.
After Knox Hamilton ended, the room filled in a bit more for Civil Twilight. When they began, the stage lights were nonexistent, which left the band to be faceless and figureless enigmas. However, the absent light complimented the quiet melodic song, “River,” that reminded me very much of Radiohead’s “Jigsaw Falling into Place.” I noticed that their bass was more prominent than the other instruments which gave each song more of a wholeness as the hum of the bass rung out underneath and carried their songs.
During “Please Don’t Find Me,” Steven (lead singer) held the mic in one hand and would use his other hand to hammer-on the frets to play out his bass lines. It built up from being slow and bluesy to breaking ground and grew into this powerhouse of a song. Kevin (guitar/piano/bass) soloed; stiffened and stretched upright on his tippy toes with his eyes closed pulling a Marty McFly.
What I really liked about Civil Twilight was that their music was universal and easy to listen to like U2, Muse, or Coldplay. It was genuinely all-around good music. And each one of them were such talented musicians. Steven went from bass to guitar to piano and Kevin went from dishing out these heavy leads on guitar to the piano then to bass. It was crazy how they were so interchangeable with their instruments.
“Letters From The Sky” was this wonderfully epic song. It was a prime example of how dynamic they can be. They incorporated the use of silence to create suspense and brought this robust raw passion that led to create these amazing climaxes. The disposition of each guitar hook accompanied by Steven’s voice and ad-libbing added such character and made the music come alive and jump out at you.
Steven admitted that he reveled in the fact that the crowd had been so wonderful and attentive, rarely using their phones during their performance, until he of course decided to glance over at me as I was adamantly taking down notes. And of course the journalist in the crowd had to get called out for being the one asshole on their phone…
Steven got on the piano and played with just his brother, Andrew (guitar). “Human” was one of my favorite songs that they played. It was a haunting, yet sincere and beautifully naive confession explaining, “It’s only love, it’s only pain/It’s only fear that runs through my veins/It’s all the things you can’t explain/That make us human.”
“When, When” sounded like it was rooted from their homeland in South Africa. It was upbeat and fun with light guitar riffs and rhythmic drums and bass like The Police or Vampire Weekend. Everyone was moving around dancing. Steven put his bass down towards the end of the song to frolic around the stage and then got the crowd to sing, “When, when am I gonna see you again,” repeatedly until they finally walked off the stage.