Live Review: Mansionair with Beacon at U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC – 20th March 2019

By on Tuesday, 2nd April 2019 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo and photos of Mansionair and Beacon throughout article by guest photographer Patrick Ryan

On the first day of spring 2019, we had a visit from one of the brightest rising bands from Down Under. Jack Froggatt, Lachlan Bostock and Alex Nicholls, collectively known as the evocatively named Mansionair, were in the latter days of a North American headline tour, their first major one, which included a series of appearances at SXSW 2019. (Read my review of their appearance at Clive Bar Thursday afternoon at Next Level Apparel’s day showcase through this link.) The Sydney band’s previous visit to Washington was as part of the 2018 Sirius XM Advanced Placement Tour with NoMBE and Mikky Ekko last April. A few weeks later, they also appeared at the ATC Live showcase at Brighton Komedia Thursday night at The Great Escape 2018.

Joining Mansionair on their cross-country jaunt were Ghostly International’s Beacon, a electronic duo originally from and based in Brooklyn. They’ve been around for a while – their third album, ‘Gravity Pairs’, was released last November – but this is the first I’ve heard of them. What a coup to be touring with another band with a similar sonic palette. Don’t let looks fool you: Thomas Mullarney may have long hair that goes way past his shoulders and would be more appropriate for a hard rock or grunge band, his soulful vocals are intended to be gentle and completely complementary to the soundscapes he and Jacob Gossett have crafted.

Beacon, by Patrick M. Ryan

Live, they rely on programmed beats instead of a drummer but wonderfully, their live presence isn’t at all static or boring. What you witness is an energetic performance that hits the spot for electronic and pop fans alike. True, their chosen lighting scheme leaves a lot to be desired if you’re trying to photograph them. However, you could also argue that the dark, rave-like stage environment is intended to focus the punter’s attention squarely on the music. Check out their rhythmically beguiling Spotify hit ‘Bring You Back’ and the darker ‘IM U’.

Beacon, by Patrick M. Ryan

Mansionair signed to star maker American record label Glassnote Records in 2015, so to say that I have been impatiently waiting for a debut album would be an understatement. From this article from Australian outlet The Music, one can gather that the delays have been attributed the group’s tiring touring schedule but also not feeling confident in their songwriting ability. I’m glad they finally came up with a way forward that worked: holing themselves up in a secluded cabin in California, away from everyone else and their opinions, to hunker down and write the album that they were proud of. Their debut LP ‘Shadowboxer’, which dropped on Glassnote in February, is a 16-track collection of songs celebrating their past single successes, interspersed with fresh tunes that fit perfectly into their electropop aesthetic.

Jack Froggatt of Mansionair, by Patrick M. Ryan

In case you have somehow missed the genesis of Mansionair, let me bring you up to date. Bostock, the electronica pedant of the group, hooked up with Nicholls, a jazz drummer. Bostock met the then-folk singer/songwriter Froggatt at a music festival and invited him to contribute vocals to an electronic track that would become their 2016 single hit ‘Hold Me Down’. Froggatt’s vocals are incredibly effective in conveying emotion, whether it be through his sultry falsetto, bombastic power and everything in between. Combined with Bostock’s electronic, guitar and bass and Nicholls’ drumming contributions, what you end up with are dynamic, emotional, engaging songs never to be forgotten.

Lachlan Bostock of Mansionair, by Patrick M. Ryan

The greatest failing of most pop bands these days is the homogeneity of their songs. Enter ‘Falling’, a great example of what exactly you wouldn’t expect from 21st century electropop: a sweet, floating, major key ballad that thoughtfully considers the people who support us through our ups and downs and coming to terms with the trials we go through in life. On this night, Mansionair followed it with ‘Easier’, an older single that wowed me live at BIGSOUND 2017 in Brisbane. Booming with a syncopated melody, spurts of percussion and compressed synths, it’s a song that successfully translates the feeling of paralysis you feel when battling with what’s going on inside your head. Indeed, what ‘Shadowboxer’ does incredibly well is communicate the mental struggles with anxiety and insecurity we all go through and offer that sense of understanding to the listener that we aren’t suffering alone.

Lachlan Bostock and Alex Nicholls of Mansionair, by Patrick M. Ryan

On the new song side of things, ‘Harlem’ shows off the band’s penchant for film soundtracks. It’s a driving, beautiful soundscape that lets each band member shine, while the sum of its parts draw you into this world. ‘Best Behaviour’, which appeared as the penultimate track of their set, puts the electronic chords and vibrations front and centre and ahead of Froggatt’s sultry vocals. The result? You feel like you’re being enveloped, cocooned by the synths, while the song works towards its ending crescendo, any insecurities falling away. Through words, synths and rhythms, Mansionair create a world where your dreams and fears can be addressed and you know you’re not alone. When you come out of it, you come out stronger and know you’re gonna be okay. All my past coverage on Mansionair on TGTF is through here.

After the cut: Mansionair’s set list for the night.

Mansionair’s Set List:
Est
Alibi
Hold Me Down
Violet City
We Could Leave
Falling
Easier
Harlem
Shadows
Waiting Room
Heirloom
Best Behaviour
Astronaut

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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