Gainesville’s Morningbell returned to town for the first time in nearly a year on Saturday night, staging a performance that felt entirely too short and was sandwiched in between sets by openers Cure for Caska (I caught the dramatic ending strains of the Orlando chamber rock outfit’s set as I approached New World Brewery) and electro post-pop duo King of Spain, the Tampa musicians closing out the evening with their guitar-bass-vocal experiments and washes of ambient sound. [Text by Leilani, photos by Phil.]
Morningbell got their ball rolling with the first two tracks off 2011’s high-quality Basso Profundo, the ska-beachy bounce of “You Think I Don’t Know, But I Know” followed directly by “I Could Use a Little Help,” the latter proof the four-piece could incorporate funky struttin’ grooves into their psyche rock arrangements with bumpin’, hip shakin’ basslines by Eric Atria and jangly little guitar riffs by his brother, singer/frontman Travis Atria, who showed off his falsetto reach and the impressive power of his pipes for the first time that evening, and then throughout the set. He hit high notes with sexy strong confidence, his vocal mastery most pronounced when Morningbell launched into a superb cover of Queen’s “Under Pressure” and Travis took on Freddie Mercury’s lead and range capabilities with striking ease, Eric delivering the lower-register David Bowie parts and tapping flashes of light in-time with his foot on a jerry-rigged lighting setup, just like he was working an extra set of pedals.
The setlist was scattered with several more tracks off Basso Profundo — the R&B bluesy Rolling Stones-channeling, “Hey Man, Hallelujah” and Afro/Flamenco-flavored “Hats Off To You, Josephine Baker” among them — as well as some select cuts from 2009’s Sincerely, Severely, like the philosophical wailing of “Marching Off to War,” and set closer, the fuzzy fun wildly driving advice of “Let’s Not Lose Our Heads.”
Overall, a strong showing. My sole complaint was the length of the set. Maybe next time around, they’ll get 'official' headlining status…