November 12, 2019 at ONCE Ballroom
The adrenaline was contagious as post-rock bands HarborLights and Brutus swept the crowd away at the ONCE Ballroom Tuesday evening.
HarborLights opened the show, drawing in the crowd with their heavily distorted guitars, bass, fast-tempo drumming, and talent. A fight even broke out halfway through HarborLights’ set, as an overly hyped fan shoved people aggressively, even causing a certain innocent bystander to slide across the floor, camera in hand. Guards had to forcibly kick him out as he continued to hurl punches that caught the wind. Audience members allowed their soul to be captured in the music.
In the small venue, you could be so close to the stage that the guitarists were simply inches in front of you. Fans reached out and clung onto the speakers, swinging their heads in slow motioned headbangs. The crowd soon grew from being a small cluster to a swarm. Ranging from melodic guitar licks to hefty drumming, HarborLights succeeded in starting the show by leaving the audience astounded.
When Brutus took the stage, the crowd roared with applause. As guitarist Peter Mulders and bassist Stijn Vanhoegaerden provided chilling sound effects from their elaborate effect pedals, lead vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts immediately encapsulated the audience with her angelic, beautiful voice in their first song, “Fire.” A hush fell over the crowd as she sang. Unique for her simultaneous role as a drummer and singer, Mannaerts kicked into gear with the drums, angst rising in her voice with the rest of the band backing her up. Then, with slower paced pageos serving as background music, Mannaerts showcased more of her vocal capabilities in “War.” She softly started singing, her voice gracefully ranging in pitch and maintaining high notes before suddenly shifting the tides by allowing the drums’ power to consume the crowd. Between the snare drum and cymbals accompanied by the guitar’s alternate picking, the energy in the room was electrifying. People were able to move freely, momentarily worlds away from reality and focused on the liveliness surrounding them.
“Space” and “Techno” continued to showcase the band’s flair, with Vanhoegaerden providing particularly flavorful bass-heavy intros as Mannaerts passionate vocals remained in synch. The band then mixed it up by backtracking to one of their older tracks, “All Along,” which still displayed their signature grunge sound. The chemistry was evident as the bassist constantly walked nearer to the speakers to be even closer to the crowd, leading to more cheers and enthusiasm. “Justice de Julia ii” served Mannaerts’ raw, genuine voice justice. How she managed to drum while singing with dexterity is unbeknownst.
It would be hard to for a person to tear their eyes away from the stage. Brutus’ humbleness was not lost. Originally from Belgium, they continued to express their gratitude to the audience for welcoming them to Boston in between songs. With incredible talent and a gift of being able to put on an electrifying show, Brutus has the potential to be one of the most influential bands in the post-rock genre.