Leading up to the show, I had really good vibes about it all week long, and my friends Cory Smith and Chris Bishop were in attendance with me. Bad Books is basically a "supergroup" formed from all the members of Manchester Orchestra + the extremely talented Kevin Devine. I consider both Andy Hull (Manchester) and Kevin Devine to be two of the premier songwriters and performers of my generation. What I didn't expect was to be impressed by the two opening bands Harrison Hudson and The Drowning Men. Both kicked off the night with strong performances, bragged on each other, and talked about how fun this tour has been for them.
What intrigued me the most was how Bad Books was completely Manchester Orchestra but also something entirely different at the same time. This was largely due to the addition of Kevin Devine (who I think should just go ahead and join the band). The way he and the rest of Manchester combined to produce this new sound was just incredible. If you are familiar with how powerful Manchester's songs are, just imagine the same level of intensity with a catchier sound and more hooks. The way they interacted with each other on stage seemed like this was their actual full-time band instead of a side project. They tossed around a few jokes like when some dudes decided it would be cool to mosh, saying they looked like they were back in '91 rocking out at a Fugazi show. Sticking with the 90's jokes, both Andy and Kevin said they had written a new song called "Let Her Cry". Little did we know they were referring to Hootie & the Blowfish which got some sing alongs and a few chuckles out of the crowd after a couple verses. Then again, Kevin said he had been working on another new song which was incredibly lyrically smart and belted out the lines "Days go by, glycerine" by Bush.
After rocking out for a solid hour, the rest of the band left Andy and Kevin on stage to put on an intimate set of about five songs including Manchester's "Where Have You Been". Throughout the last part of the set, it was deathly silent as the crowd just stared and listened in amazement to the two of them trade off their powerful lyrics. I couldn't believe the humbleness and love they had for doing their own thing. They could have easily toured as Manchester Orchestra, a more recognizable name, and sold out the larger Cannery Ballroom downstairs. I was blown away by their performance in every single way, and all my hype about the show was met and surpassed in some ways. It was the perfect way to spend my Thursday night.
Below are links to both Bad Books' albums. Give them a listen.