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Lo-Fang At The Troubadour: Show Review

Chandler Golan |
April 4, 2014 | 11:19 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The classically-trained musician dazzled the crowd with tunes from debut album "Blue Film." (Chandler Golan/Neon Tommy)
The classically-trained musician dazzled the crowd with tunes from debut album "Blue Film." (Chandler Golan/Neon Tommy)
Although the Troubadour frequently sells out performances due to its famous heritage and consistent booking of top talent, it’s rare for someone as seemingly unfamiliar as Lo-Fang, the stage name of Baltimore musician Matthew Hemerlein, to do so before the day of the show.

But the 30-year-old may be more well-known that you believe; he’s performed on Letterman, released a record on 4AD, and was personally chosen to go on the road with one of pop’s biggest stars -- none other than "Royals" songstress Lorde. A considerable line was wrapped around the block well before doors Wednesday evening as fans and industry folk awaited his largest headlining Los Angeles show.

In unusual fashion, Brooklyn comic Kate Berlant walked onstage just thirty minutes before Hemerlein’s scheduled set time. It didn’t take long to distinguish between the people in the audience that had checked out the nature of the opening performance and those that hadn’t; Berlant even picked up a guitar during her set to keep the confusion alive.

After a handful of false starts, almost everyone who was angered by her delays realized she wasn’t going to be playing any compositions and took to enjoying her unpredictable and engaging style. 

Lo-Fang took the stage precisely at ten o’clock with as much humility and casualness as he had when introducing Berlant. Classically trained in a variety of instruments, he alternated between violin and electric guitar loops with an ease that suggested not just practice, but profound talent. Live drums and keys as well as laptops rounded out the rest of his backing band. The usually harsh lighting of the Troubadour was altered to fit the namesake of his debut record, "Blue Film."

Scattered around Hemerlein’s overflowing pedal board were various origami cranes. Unfortunately, their presence wasn’t a pleasant reference; their reason for subsisting likely came from being mentioned amidst a painful reminiscence in his song “Look Away”. The bulk of his material, although upbeat in the case of several tracks, expresses melancholy nostalgia and reflects on the futility of relationships. This failed to alienate his fans, however, who looked on adoringly.

Roughly midway through his performance Hemerlein took off his sweatshirt, generating an enthusiastic cheer from the crowd. In response, he quipped, “That sounds like a Lorde show”. He would know, as this stop was a brief intermission during his tour with the Grammy-winning New Zealand songstress. She listed his single “#88” as one of her favorite tracks of 2013 and came to his performance at The Echo last December to ask him to open for her.

With only one recorded album under his belt, Lo-Fang’s set didn’t last for more than fifty minutes, but he performed his complex and delicate arrangements with such aptitude that even in subjective terms, one could not claim his display unimpressive. For those discovering his music just now, make your way out to see him before the closest a reasonably priced ticket can get you is a seat in the back of a balcony.

Read more of NT's show reviews here.
Reach Staff Reporter Chandler Golan here.


 

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