by kevin diamond

“This is either an auspicious beginning or an inauspicious beginning” explained singer Justin Rice. Bishop Allen had just finished their first song, and the bass amp was engulfed in flames. “I’m gonna go with inauspicious.”

It was a memorable start to a show that was at times energetic and at other times lagged, yet ended with a bang. It was especially apropos for a band that sings about signs and signals, and who penned a tune called “Same Fire.” What it really showcased, however, was the unmistakable charm that these kids impart: The stoner bassist continually apologizing for blowing out the amp, something that was obviously out of his control; Justin Rice and Christian Rudder laughing at the situation and never taking themselves seriously; Darby Nowatka, the only female band member, with her shy demeanor and understated singing. It’s the bands greatest strength and best quality. No wonder their first album was called Charm School.

Artist: Bishop Allen
Song: Busted Heart

Bishop Allen has the talent and chops of any indie pop outfit out there today, which makes it all more surprising that they’re often overlooked. For my money, they’ve got more tunes, more energy, and more, yes, charm than bands like Vampire Weekend, yet get only half as much acclaim. It’s a shame, but also a blessing. The Bowery was not sold out on Sunday night, which may be a bad thing for the venue, but which is a plus to any fan who enjoys a laid back atmosphere in which to watch their favorite band. I’ve seen plenty of shows at Bowery that overflowed with drunk NYU kids trying to score dates and talking over a band that I really enjoy, so I was happy for my space and the intimate performance.

The performance itself was full of energy, and though there were a few songs played that I would consider clunkers, the showmanship of the band usually trumped and kept the momentum moving. The greatest moment of the night was the last: Christian began plucking the strings of my personal favorite Bishop Allen song, Flight 180, as Justin invited the members of the two opening bands: Team B and Mt Helens Vietnam Band, to join them on stage playing various percussion and brass instruments, and closing out the show with a bang.

Artist: Bishop Allen
Song: Flight 180

One hopes the word spreads about these guys and their bubble continues to expand. Though it is fun being able to consider a band this good to be your own little secret.

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