Bryan Courtney performs at the Frequency.
Though their name suggests that they're a pop-punk band for teenagers, Hey Rosetta! is a symphonic rock band that creates anthems, much like Coldplay and the Fray. You know, the types of songs that cause tears to well up in your eyes while watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy. They're good, they're emotional, and they translate well live. Really, really well last night at the Frequency.
The sole opener for the show, singer-songwriter Bryan Courtney, began the night on a solemn note. With a gloomy cover of the Postal Service's "This Place Is A Prison," he provided a stark contrast to the energy and enthusiasm Hey Rosetta! brought to the stage.
Nearly 100 folks gathered to hear these six Canadians, who seem poised for a much bigger stage. They started their set with "Yer Spring," a song from 2011's Seeds, and quickly proved that their sound could fill a venue more spacious than the Frequency's small back room. Kinley Downley's violin and Romesh Thavanathan's cello helped create a lush, orchestral sound. Lead singer Tom Baker had an endearing and engaging stage presence, which was complimented by Josh Ward's backing vocals and bass lines, Phil Maloney's drumming and Adam Hogan's lead guitar.
This was the type of show where the audience sang along, even if they weren't familiar with the songs. That's not to say that Hey Rosetta! write formulaic songs; they just make it easy to enjoy live music. The band seemed humble and genuine while performing marvelously, and they made their craft look easy. Songs like "There's An Arc," from 2008's Into Your Lungs, showed how they can sound like a modest Newfoundland folk group one moment and a raucous, stadium-rock band the next. Their controlled eruptions of emotion are entirely believable, not forced.
Baker introduced "Welcome" with calm sincerity, explaining that the song was written to celebrate the birth of a friend's child. He began the tune with delicate, hypnotizing vocals reminiscent of fellow Canadian artist Patrick Watson. What began as a pretty lullaby soon turned into a much noisier affair: a rock song with tinges of angsty punk. You don't listen to this band on autopilot. Just when you think a song is fading to an end, they'll tweak the tempo and launch into another chorus.
Baker announced that Hey Rosetta! was happy to be back in Madison, "swimming in craft beer and cheese curds." Here's hoping we can enjoy them on a grander stage next time they roll through town.