Kaleo at Brighton Music Hall
The four blonde haired Icelandic musicians that make up Kaleo walked onto the stage at the Brighton Music Hall and took their places. The opening act Firekid had left the stage not fifteen minutes before, and their Southern-style sound left a couple shoes still tapping on the floor. The venue was intimate and cozy, a definite sold-out show where I didn’t have to elbow strangers to get a good view of the band. And oh, you wanted a good view. Kaleo proceeded to blow the crowd’s collective mind with “No Good,” a guitar riff heavy, hard rock song that changed up the energy in the room. Frontman JJ Juilius Son’s voice sounds better in person than it does on my Spotify playlist, a deep and soulful sound with completely gripping raspy undertones. Their song “I Can’t Go On Without You” was enough to give me goosebumps; this band could easily play a rock-and-roll version of ‘Happy Birthday’ and I’d still be smitten.
Kaleo began in a garage, as all great rock bands do, in Mosfellsbaer, Iceland in 2012. Their sweet sing-a-long “All The Pretty Girls” gathered a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before the group moved to Austin, Texas to expand their bluesy low-grass sound. The drummer and three other instruments flow easily with each other, each adding to the underlying melody and complimenting Son’s incredible voice. The whole crowd (myself included) was mesmerized, completely content.
Kaleo’s interesting mix of blues, folk, indie pop and rock is captivating, and the group’s quick rise to success in the U.S. isn’t a shock. The band has played in 40 states to date, and the band’s single “Way Down We Go” has more than three million Spotify streams and aired on Sirius XM’s The Spectrum. They’ve played at festivals including Firefly, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits, and are hoping to expand their presence nationwide. And they’re not wasting time - the band’s “Way Down We Go” tour just started, despite a heavy touring schedule through 2015.
The four members of Kaleo are stirring up the traditional bluesy rock genre with songs that create a really glorious tension by building up momentum, but never quite crashing. By the end of the show I had googly eyes, a slightly inappropriate crush on the lead singer, and a new appreciation for the genre itself. Kaleo’s performance made you want to rock out in your old, fading band t-shirts and soak in the nostalgia, because there’s really nothing better than listening to a well-crafted guitar riff. If they’re new on your radar - check them out. You’ll want to keep up with these Icelandic newcomers.
Photos by Lindsey Goldin