One thing was for sure: these bands know how to start a show. Storming Central Park’s SummerStage under a dusky blue sky, X Ambassadors and Milky Chance both kicked off their sets with old school rock theatrics and found themselves in a flood of new school applause.
X Ambassadors took the stage with some freaky, space-like chords and a spoken welcome. Keyboardist Casey Harris, who has been blind since birth, was already headbanging and tearing it up in their very first song, “Loveless.” This band was anything but that, and his stage presence revved up the crowd instantly. It wasn’t just mindless clapping – you could hear them actually shouting names and requesting songs.
Lead singer (and brother) Sam Harris commanded their mix of fun-grungy alt-rock, tapping into a strong supply of falsetto, sax, and adrenaline. Both brothers have a knack for that crowd connection; he even paused to make adjustments with their sound technician when a few fans asked him to crank up his mic. X Ambassadors grooved through “Hang On,” “Love Songs Drug Songs,” and “Unsteady” with Noah Feldshuh and Adam Levin laying a sturdy groundwork on guitar and drums.
“This next song is about being free, and being open with the ones you care about…” said Sam, trailing off into silence. “It’s also a song about taking your clothes off,” he added, causing an explosion of squeals in the park. They finished off with “Naked,” “Gorgeous,” “Renegades,” and “Jungle.”
Milky Chance also killed it right in the intro, with booming drums, sultry “oh oh”s, and a vintage rock vibe. It was reminiscent of Pink Floyd, but with a reggae foundation to it. The German folk rockers pulled in some offbeat electronic elements as well, tying it all together with Clemens Rehbein’s distinct scratchy-sexy vocals. Milky Chance’s setlist included “Stunner,” “Fairytale,” “Sadnecessary,” “Flashed Junk Mind,” “Given,” “Loveland,” “Sweet Sun,” “Indigo,” “Feathery,” “Nevermind,” “Unknown Song,” “Running,” and “Stolen Dance,” with a wild encore of “Let Us Run Little Love,” “Becoming,” and “Down By the River.”
They seem to be strongly influenced by world music, with each song subtly sneaking off to a distant land. You could almost catch some Romani melodies in the mix, as well as a definite island flare. Borrowing from such a wide range of styles and beats made their music extremely danceable – and there was no hesitation there. Milky Chance’s sound hit the air like dye on cotton, bleeding together instantly and branching out endlessly.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley