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Heartbeat: Elliott Brood, Pack a.d.

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Elliott Brood

Alt-county is my jam, guys. I'm constantly spinning The Avett Brothers, Swedish singer-songwriter The Tallest Man On Earth and Ha Ha Tonka and their grandpas Johnny Cash, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. I'm already majorly keyed into the genre; so, when I first heard woodsy Canadian alt-country trio Elliott Brood, I knew I'd want to see these guys live. I got my wish this Thursday at the White Rabbit Cabaret.

Lead singer and banjo player Mark Sasso has a voice that's just a little less grimier than Titus Andronicus' Eric Harm (and intro to track "Fingers and Tongues" is a sound-alike to their track,"Titus Andronicus Forever"). He was accompanied by drummer Stephen Pitkin and guitarist/ukelele/vocalist Casey Laforet on stage for around fifteen songs.

Elliott Brood hasn't had the easiest time touring as of late. Throughout the set, they complained constantly about previous tour dates in St. Louis ("Nobody has any rhythm in that town") and Los Angeles ("Terrible city, terrible city"). Luckily, they shook off all the negativity and performed a high-energy, passionate set with a mix of tracks from albums old and new.

They closed the set with two songs "Write It All Down for You" and "Fingers and Tongues," but first passed out pots, pans and spoons to the crowd to bang along to their final tracks. The small but rowdy crowd remaining ate the audience-participation bit right up.

The reason I'm so attracted to the sound of groups like Elliott Brood and those mentioned above is because they combine dirty, alt-country passion (they coined the phrase "death country" to characterize their sound), literate lyrics and melodic, driving vocals. They're less twee than the Decemberists, more rockabilly than the Avett Brothers and denser melodically and lyrically than their British cousins Mumford and Sons. They're just...well, good.

The Pack a.d. kicked off the night with a strong White Stripes-y feel. Singer/guitarist Becky Black growled through twenty short songs, averaging around two minutes a piece. Drummer Maya Miller punished the drums and bantered extremely oddly with the crowd.

"Becky is going to switch guitars in that wacky way guitar players do. And then she is going to play a song on that guitar. And when she starts playing, I am going to join in," she said.

The weird, meta banter continued through the duration of the set, but there was nothing weird about their tracks. Although at times I wished the vocals would be more melodic - they sometimes got a bit droney - I thoroughly enjoyed the Pack a.d.'s set. (A note - the weird banter continued with Elliott Brood, who upon taking the stage said, "Hey we are Elliott Brood and we are here from the North. How are you guys feeling tonight? it's Thursday.")

Elliott Brood closes their set with "Write It All Down for You."

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