Ne-Hi at The Middle East
James Weir stands sentry at the front of the small Middle East Upstairs stage in Cambridge, MA, essentially playing weathervane to the relative cool of Mikey Wells and the more spastic Jason Balla who trade lead and backing vocals during the more-than hour-long Ne-Hi set. In league with his rhythm section partner, Alex Otake, both adorned in their hometown colors of the Bulls and Cubs, the two hold down the Chicago band’s lower end that is highly unlikely to remain playing to these types of smaller but hugely enthusiastic crowds. It’s clear that these guys are built for bigger venues than this.
Bookended by two singles from their 2016 standout LP, Offers, the band showed a precision and presence of performers that have been at this for longer than their brief couple of years, and reveals the fact that they use their practice space for more than drinking tall boys and fucking around.
Weir’s calming presence remains even when he is kicking in a third set of pipes on songs like Buried on the Moon, Turncoat and the aforementioned sing-a-longs Sisters and Stay Young. Voices and guitars match notes and wind quickly, providing a melodic reminder of some of the best pieces in Parquet Courts’ most recent effort, Human Performance, or perhaps a speedier Speedy Ortiz. On slower rockers, Balla plucks treble melodies out of his holly-body Gibson that add musical accents of neo-psych rockers The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Check out Jeremy’s Brother Brother Brother interview with James Weir and Alex Otake here.