In celebration of their debut album, Left for Better, The Local Strangers hosted a sold out release party at the Columbia City Theater this past Friday. The album, which you can read about here, is a beautiful collection of emotional, melodic tracks compiled by Aubrey Zoli and Matt Hart conceived thanks to support from a Kickstarter initiative. I’d seen these cats before at Anthem in Tacoma, so I knew it would be an enjoyable show on a larger scale at this venue, which is my favorite in the city. What resulted was a fun, uplifting way to finish out the work week.
After some strong opening acts from soul singer Carson Henley (RIYL Allen Stone) and poet Mary Lambert (I arrived too late for The Dimes), The Local Strangers kicked off the show with the album’s lead track, “Mr. Blackberry”; a foot-stomping, driving tune that got the crowd whipped into a frenzy pretty quickly. The band progressed through all (or almost all) of the tracks on Left for Better, including some of my personal favorites, “House on a Hill”, “Daniel”, and one of the evening’s closers, “Uptown”. Zoli and Hart were accompanied by a variety of folks on keyboard, accordion, drums, electric guitar, and an upright or electric bass. They also were joined by a quartet of female backup singers on several numbers.
There was a strong, dedicated crowd for this party, complete with several Kickstarter backers in the front who knew many of the words to the newly released project. The band has very clearly developed a strong base of followers thanks to a consistent dose of live performances like the one that got me hooked. Zoli and Hart expressed undying gratitude for their fans and had such obvious fun that spilled into the crowd as well.
Although, the sold out crowd was the group doing the spilling onto the stage when anyone and everyone was invited to join the band for one of the last numbers, “Uptown”. The camaraderie between the band and their fans was obvious as about 15 people joined them for this number, which features a choral intro, Hart’s clean acoustic and vocals, and Zoli’s near-perfect vocal accompaniment. The evening certainly felt like a celebration, which was evidenced by this encore.
Hart and Zoli closed the night as a duet with a cover of “Forgiveness” by Patty Griffin; a song that they are retiring from their arsenal after a consistent incorporation. This track was another example of the smooth combination of voices that these two share with the world. The simple, beautiful song by Griffin was an inspired choice for the close of the evening, getting back to the roots and influences the Local Strangers have drawn from. I loved hearing this cover, but know that this combo is prepared to close their evenings with a growing dose of their own beauty moving forward.