LIVE REVIEW: Landlady @ Nublu 151

Nublu 151 looks like the inside of Satan’s jewel box. Kaleidoscopic projections swirl on the walls and a dangling disco ball takes the place of a wind-up ballerina. But it’s the pervasive red and blue lighting that really lends a sinister tint to the venue. The colors radiate over the main floor, the hallway, the balcony bar where attendees can peer over the band’s backside as if looking down into a dog pit. Even the bathrooms are trapped in the eerie glow; as I flushed the toilet, a woman’s hand smacked firmly on the semi sheer wall to my right. I almost expected the glass to be streaked with blood.

Eric Lane, the house piano man, only added to the evening’s Lynchian ambiance. He delighted us with cocktail-hour salsa standards, a Beach Boys ballad, and Angelo Badalamenti’s opening theme to “Twin Peaks.” His playing went down like a glug of brandy, warming the throat and coating the stomach. By this point, I’d nearly forgotten that it was a reasonable hour, that I hadn’t had anything to drink, and although I felt as if I was waiting for a heartsick chanteuse to traipse onstage, I was actually there to see Landlady.

Wednesday night marked Landlady’s second in a series of three weekly concerts at Nublu 151 (their final date lands on September 25). Each night of the residency is opened by a different artist, and singer-songwriter Allegra Krieger warmed the crowd with the help of her intuitive backing band, who improvised ambient passages on bowed bass and guitar during Krieger’s multiple tuning breaks. Krieger’s music is haunting and delicate, and strengthened by the tasteful contributions of her bandmates. Her voice is somehow breathy yet potent, reminding me of Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker. If you weren’t paying attention, you might be fooled by Krieger’s airy register and fresh face—but you’d be missing out on her wry songs about suspicion, solitude, and the “decaying human race,” to borrow her phrase.

If Eric Lane’s piano interludes seemed to be courting dark forces, Landlady’s set felt like a sermon. Adam Schatz and his bandmates always give a rapturous performance, with no shortage of instrumental freakouts or full-body contortions. Schatz has a way of moving that suggests divine possession, though at times he simply prances around, arms crunched close to his body like a T. Rex. The band bulldozed through songs spanning all three of their studio albums, pulling off an impressive four-part harmony on “Under the Yard” from 2014’s Upright Behavior (guitarist Will Graefe was tasked with the highest notes, and he delivered admirably).

Despite a leaking ceiling and a couple of sound issues (we learned that the bassist couldn’t hear anything when he accidentally said so directly into his microphone), Landlady flew seamlessly between high energy versions of “Electric Abdomen,” “Dying Day,” “Solid Brass,” and a handful of new songs. The unrecognizable tracks were some of the most thrilling, invigorated by Ian Chang’s inspired relationship with his drum kit. Of course, no Landlady gig would be complete without Schatz’s clever rambling. Landlady’s leading man is so charismatic and hilarious that at times you want him to just keep talking… about Cheers and Frasier, or mundane fiascos, or anything. Whether his wit is calculated or compulsive is unclear, but it’s an absolute treat either way.

When Schatz announced that Landlady had two songs left, I wouldn’t have guessed that the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care” would be one of them. Allegra Krieger hopped back onstage to tackle Roy Orbison’s part while Schatz vamped around for the rest. But after the carefree fun of a cover song, Schatz got earnest, dedicating the somber “Above My Ground” to those we’ve lost as of late: Daniel Johnston, David Berman, Neal Casal… people we have never met, and people we’d do anything to see again.