LIVE REVIEW: Locksley at Vinyl

Locksley - Live at Vinyl
Photo by Bobby Russell

On September 30, Madison, Wisconsin-based quartet Locksley opened for the bluesy rock veteran Will Hoge at Vinyl, the smaller and more intimate of the three stages that make up the Center Stage complex. This particular Friday was like so many others: The end of a long week, a dimly lit bar, friends meeting up, and just all around good vibes. Everyone who arrived early (and this was just about enough folks to fill up the place) was just relaxing and mellowing in this chill atmosphere. If the night had ended right then and there it would have been perfect. Then Locksley came out to play.

There are a lot of bands playing a lot of different styles of music out there. And there’s usually a time and place for just about every one of those sounds. On a rainy day I can definitely get down to some slow, sad and introspective music like Alive in Wild Paint or even Death Cab for Cutie. A night out can call for anything from Lil’ Wayne to Ida Maria. But for a chill Friday night, in a small, homey venue, such styles just aren’t going to cut it. And, really, the vibe inside Vinyl was already perfect. Adding anything to the night ran the delicate risk of ruining it. There’s a certain equilibrium a good time reaches that is easy to break — an equilibrium that the venue had reached when Locksley came out to play.

As the quartet jaunted onstage, Jordan Laz, Locksley’s tall bassist and one of three singers, grabbed the mic and began pumping the crowd up. Locksley assumes a 1960’s character in dress, sound and performance. Laz’s pep talk was straight out of the big band era, calling to the throng to repeat and respond to his chants. The band then went straight into their guitar-driven, self-proclaimed “doo-wop punk.” Their jangly guitars bounced off quick, happy drum parts, making it hard to keep your feet from bouncing and stepping. The whole band was dancing around, with each of the three frontmen sharing vocal duties at different parts, slamming the crowd against their wall of Beatles-esque beauty. If a good time had a sound and a look it would sound and look like Locksley that night. They neither challenged or jarred the good-humored listeners, nor allowed them to sit still. I’m not sure what the crowd expected at first, but it wasn’t Locksley. But by the end of the set, the whole place was going wild with joy, dancing and bobbing their heads to their Friday night manifested in the form of a band.

Locksley never broke their stage character throughout the entire set, and every consecutive song just got better and better. There were moments when Jordan Laz and his brother, guitarist Jesse Laz, were singing face-to-face in nostalgic heartthrob fashion. In another standout moment, lead guitarist Kai Kennedy and Jesse Laz played each others still-strapped-on guitars to share a solo, climbing over each others backs to reach the strings. (It’s kind of hard to explain, but don’t worry about it, it was great.)

Meanwhile, drummer Sam Bair kept the energy up with a solid back beat all night long. During “The New Sensation,” the band hit pause and froze mid-song, waiting for the level on the noise-o-meter to hit red before kicking back into the jam. Just when you’d think they were wrapping the set up Jordan Laz would shout into the mic, “This is a blues riff in E. Watch me for the changes. Sam Keep up.” And then they whip into another song. You would think this sort of retro feel and character to a band would water down their performance (in most cases it usually comes off as contrived and fake), but Locksley makes it sound heartfelt and genuine. Though their sound is definitely a throwback, they play rock and roll like they made it up.

To end the night, Jordan Laz once again manned the microphone to chant the “wa oh oh, uh uh oh oh ohs” from their song “The Whip” into a now incredibly responsive crowd, who embraced him by returning the chant right back into the band’s face. They cruised right through the anthemic number and brought the night to it’s climax. At this point it felt like the whole place was dancing and joining into the good times together.

Every time I’ve seen Locksley they’ve been the supporting act, but I’ll be doggoned if they haven’t stolen the show every single time. I think they are just having fun playing fun music and that translates into a universal good vibe at their shows.

Check out some more photos from Bobby Russell below.

Locksley Live at Vinyl

Locksley Live at Vinyl 2

Locksley Live at Vinyl 3

Locksley Live at Vinyl 4

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