Review: Elsinore, Accordions at Rock Lobster 

Three bands gathered Thursday night at Rock Lobster for a free showcase that was one in a series of Broad Ripple Music Fest preview shows. Bloomington-via-Indianapolis-based HotFox opened up the proceedings with their ballsy, dirty sound that combines some fierce guitar work with innovative songwriting. Songs like “We Are Not Machines” and “AK-47” really demonstrate the band’s ability to match lyrics and melody while telling an engaging story. “AK-47” tells the story of meeting a girl at a bus station and inviting her back to meet one’s dysfunctional parents. One would never believe these guys are only a year out of high school; the depth of their songwriting and overall cohesion seem to defy their age.

Next up was Champaign, Ill.-based Elsinore, a quartet touring on the heels of the release of their EP “Life Inside an Elephant.” Playing after Hot Fox, these guys had a cleaner, more straight-forward, power-pop kind of feel, making good use of the keyboard. Led by the long-haired and highly-skilled showman Ryan Groff, Elsinore delivered about a half-dozen short tracks, including several from the new EP: the title track; “The General." The soulful, haunting “The Thermostat, the Telephone,” from an earlier release, also stood out. These guys play heavy on the low end, while keeping the pace up-speed and allowing Groff’s vocals to take center stage. They closed their set with a cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” taking the '80s classic and making it their own while still delivering the goods.

Rounding out the night was Indy-based Accordions, led by frontman Ben Bernthal variously on the auto-harp and ukulele. Combining the auto-harp with an electric bass, guitar, and drums gives this band a really dramatic sound, with pace changes and vocal harmonies that carry an epic quality. Accordions are operating on a pretty sophisticated level, experimenting with odd instrumentation, time signatures and a cappella interludes. However, the nuances of Bernthal's lyrics were drowned out for some reason, which tended to take away from the gravity of the otherwise innovative and engaging performance.

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