Concert Review: La Strada at Local 506 in Chapel Hill

I met with La Strada’s singer/accordion player James Craft before the show – fully admitting I had no prior knowledge of the band outside a few listens of what they have posted on their MySpace page. The songs I had heard, were somewhat deceptive streaming over the internet on my sweet, tiny PC speakers at work. But they suggested the music was reminiscent of a few bands I know and love – so needless to say I was grateful to speak with James, and excited to get a chance to see them perform.

Following, what was an odd choice of opening bands in North Elementary (Kaiser Cartel made complete sense), La Strada opened things with “There’s Only Love,” a song that begins as some sort of sea shanty then breaks suddenly into soaring strings and calling vocals. This was followed by “The Mountain Song”– an accordion and cello driven song that I can only describe as beginning Eastern European dirge-ish but morphing midsong into a Coldplay-esque melody (middle fingers down) that, despite my lame comparison, is actually quite beautiful.

The middle of the set was comprised of four songs and two interludes of music not on their recently released debut LP New Home. And if there was one area that felt a bit off, it was the ordering of songs near the end of the set. By no means were any of the songs played that night bad – but I remember thinking that one song in particular, “Mean that Much,” didn’t really fit in the order, or with the general vibe of the evening for that matter.

But when La Strada finishes, they finish strong – and if all the songs before actually had completely sucked, attending their show would still be worth the time and money for the two songs that concluded the evening. Built on Andrew Bird’s strings and The Hold Steady’s chanting choruses, “My New Home” begged for more people to sing-a-long than were there that Wednesday night. Climaxing in sea of “Ooooh ohs,” strings and cymbal crashes, it was easily the best song of the evening for me and one that I’ve played daily since. Seriously – check out the MP3 below.

They closed things with what seems to be their most college radio friendly song, “Wash On By,” which seems poised to make it on playlists this summer with its plucking stings and up-tempo melody. It was the perfect way to send the crowd off from a late, mid-week show wanting more.

I have a feeling everyone that has had the pleasure of seeing them thus far, indeed does want much more. I for one will be keeping an eye out for the next time they come through town.

La Strada – My New Home

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