Birth Order Be Damned,
Middle Kids Delight at the Ready Room
By Cory Weaver
Who needs babysitters? The kids are in control. Experts say that middle children are bound to be the most troublesome. In this case, they form a band, the lead singer and bassist get married, they follow up their EP with an amped-up, ballad-infused album, and go on a worldwide tour.
Australian indie-rockers, the Middle Kids, unassumingly rolled into St. Louis Tuesday night—in what I can only hope was via a VW bus or 1989 Honda Civic—and poured their soul out on the stage of the Grove neighborhood’s best rock venue, The Ready Room.
After rocking LouFest last year with a short 45-minute set, the trio, touring with guest guitarist Cam Henderson, collectively took the stage at the same time—so it’s fair to say they’re all on the same level. The bass-heavy “Bought It” from 2018’s Lost Friends opened the show.
The song quickly transitions from bass showcase to beautiful ballad, highlighting lead-singer/songwriter Hannah Day’s classically trained vocal prowess (she also learned how to play Pachelbel’s Canon in D on piano at age 3, so she’s pretty badass). Hashing out a tune from their 2017 Middle Kids EP, “Old River” confirms the early comparisons to the National and satisfies the post-punk bass riffs reminiscent of the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The set progressed with the rowdy pop-rock dance tune, “On My Knees,” followed by “Edge of Town,” another slow-crescendo-building tune that solidifies with Coldplay-esque guitar interludes. Hearing “Edge of Town” live, it’s evident the song has been perfected by the trio—they’ve been playing it for a while now, and it appears on both their EP and Lost Friends.
They saved the hit single, “Mistake,” off of Lost Friends for mid-set, but that seemed to be more of a structural choice than a “Hey, we’ll save our single for mid-set to keep people here” decision. The festival-takeover anthem was a perfect segue to the next part of the show, when the stage cleared except for Day, who was left alone with her keyboard to spill out “Doing it Right” from Middle Kids. Aside from the obvious Tori Amos comparisons, Day’s vibrato was even more impressive than her classically trained keyboard acuity.
The band rejoined Day on stage and transitioned to the bass-heavy ballad, “Tell Me Something.” Day mentioned that they had a cellist on the recording of the track and that they were sorry the cellist was not present. But bassist Tim Fitz more than made up for the absence with a tone-setting marcato that hovered between heartbreak and hope.
“So Long Farewell I’m Gone” finished the set. The tune not only wraps up their new album perfectly, but also sums up who the Middle Kids are nicely. It’s a ballad that navigates through signature changes, Day’s passionate howls and crashing cymbals until it builds and builds and the song fades away. It’s a very cinematic musical approach to end an album and, in this case, the set too.
The Middle Kids played a little over an hour and displayed an uncanny ability to fit 15 songs and a little banter into such a short time span. It certainly left the crowd wanting more.