Stopped in at 21 Lounge yesterday on the way out of the Cavs game to see Autumn Owls, a terrific indie rock trio out of Ireland. The group is on a short U.S. tour that culminates with a show in Austin at the South by Southwest festival. Despite the fact that a near-sellout crowd was at the Q for the Cavs, no one from the game filtered over to 21 Lounge, which is located just behind the parking structure for the Horseshoe Casino. Too bad. There were literally about ten people in the audience when Autumn Owls started their fantastic 60-minute set. Critics have likened the group to Radiohead and the National, and those comparisons were validated even though the band was playing in stripped down format that didn’t deliver the same sonic density found on its recordings. Still, the guys used an array of effects pedals to distort the guitars and create rich sonic textures. The prickly, Bowie-like “Spider” was a real highlight as its moody intro was truly haunting. Later in the set, singer-guitarist Gary McFarlane introduced one new tune by saying it was still “rough” but the unfinished track rocked hard.
A trio out of New York, headliners The End of America set up their gear in the middle of the club’s floor to be closer to the handful of patrons who remained for their set. It was a great move. Even without amplification, their alt-country tunes sounded terrific. Each of the three members had a fantastic voice. They all capably handled lead vocals, and their rendition of Beck’s “Please Leave a Light On When You Go,” a tune from the Song Reader book of sheet of music he put out last year, was rendered as a tender, beautiful ballad every bit as evocative as anything by Crosby, Stills and Nash. After the trio closed the set with “Running,” two unruly patrons hollered obnoxiously in the attempt to lure the band back out for an encore. It worked. The guys delivered “The Hardest Thing” to conclude their hour-long set.