Unlike its title, DOPE LEMON’s song “Kids Fallin’ in Love” is not an accurate picture of the millennial crowd that flocked to the Bellwether Monday night. Despite the cityscape that surrounded the venue, the group matched the aura of the band’s music and dressed in bohemian attire reminiscent of a desert music festival.
The band’s opening song, “Stonecutters,” layers strong bass with electric guitar. The Australian indie-rock sound combines textured sounds, such as tangy guitar chords, with intense drums and bass to create a blend between classic rock and folk music. While some songs play on this contrast and bounce back and forth between these two styles, others more distinctly fall into one category. Songs like “Marinade,” “Hey You,” and “Rose Pink Cadillac” were more rhythmic and provided a calmer break in the set, while “Uptown Folks” and “Coyote” played into the rock side of DOPE LEMON’s style.
Angus Stone, the artist behind DOPE LEMON, seamlessly infused the Bellwether in Los Angeles with dreamlike rock music reminiscent of classic 70s hits. The rhythmic nature of the music and conversational flow between songs matched the venue’s lack of sectioned seating – listeners could move freely from the open section beside the stage to the wraparound balcony lofted above. The venue’s layout, combined with Stone’s efforts to foster an embracive group atmosphere, created a group setting with the purpose of uniting strangers through music.
DOPE LEMON’s sound is both eclectic and whimsical, with certain moments sounding otherworldly and others embracing a hard-rock feel. This is undoubtedly traced to the variety of instruments that the band uses. On one corner of the stage you could see a theremin: an instrument that changes in pitch based on a musician’s proximity to it. Spotted elsewhere onstage was a set of electronic hand drums. Midway through Stone’s set a harmonica was included. The variety of unorthodox instruments, combined with the otherworldly nature of DOPE LEMON’s songs, made for distinctly psychedelic sounds.
Though Stone both creates and produces his music solo, he performs with a band of other Australian musicians. Stone’s comfort level around his bandmates brought a casual feel to his set. Before his song, “Hey Man, Don’t Look at Me Like That,” Stone chimed in on the backstory of the song and instructed the crowd to chime in on specific lines. During the lyrics “And hey, if you love somebody / Say it out loud,” the echoes of audience members chanting alongside Stone could be heard. The result was impressive; nearly the entire crowd’s voices shouted out within the intimate space. The show became interactive as we contributed to the music despite our role as audience members.
DOPE LEMON’s performative talent has a way of fostering collaboration between the band and audience members. Each musician was not stationed to one spot on stage. On several occasions, Stone’s guitarist activated a fog machine and would meander throughout the mist it produced. These stage effects rolled out into the crowd who too was engulfed by the haze. The boundary between performer and audience, typically distinct and divisive, gradually disappeared throughout the night.
In Stone’s closing songs he ramped up his laid back atmosphere. He held a mock auction with the crowd, resulting in silhouettes of hands jetting upward from the mass of bodies in the crowd below. The evening ended with “Kids Fallin’ in Love,” which brought back Stone’s more mellow rhythm. The satisfactory, nostalgic sound of the song completed the set’s trajectory along unexpected, interactive, and conclusively nostalgic music. Unlike a typical stage setup where proximity to the artist ensures a more intimate experience, DOPE LEMON’s set offered this close experience regardless of where one stood. The existence of the audience as part of the show meant that any spot in the room was one next to the artist, since each audience member contributed to the show. As the crowd exited the Bellwether, the buzz created by the set continued to vibrate through the group, newly energized by their participation in the night’s music.
(all photographs by Somerset Colligan)