Here’s the funny thing about Eli August: when I first saw their show in 2014, they were just that act that was between two other acts. They weren’t a performer I’d set out planning to see but there also wasn’t anything in particular else that I wanted to see in that time slot. I literally went in with absolutely zero expectations. The band they followed was mediocre, and I don’t even remember who they were at this point, other than to say I kind of remember a cheezy fake British accent.
Then, Eli August loads the stage with the Abandoned Buildings. Imagine an entire orchestra cramming into your bedroom. There were guitars, banjos, several times of horn, a cello, at least one mandolin, possibly a ukulele, one of those metal boards that hang around the neck (is that even a real instrument? I have no idea what it’s called)…a couple of backing vocalists…the stage was packed. i’d never seen anything like it.
…and I fell in love with this song:
I remember sharing it with my father, who I thought might also like it. He said two things about it.
1. “Is that a cello?”
2. “They’d never make it on the radio.”
SO WHAT?! Readers, will you forgive me if I rant about #2 for a second? MOST great music never makes it on the radio. “The radio” as an entity, is designed in a format where they will feed you 40 hit songs at any given time, and you will like songs from those hits, because that is what is on the radio. It doesn’t make the songs good (or bad, mind), it makes the songs READILY AVAILABLE, like ramen noodles. Just because you can get it anywhere doesn’t mean all other noodles are, by definition, sub-par. So they won’t become stupidly wealthy making this kind of music. SO WHAT. All you need in life is enough to pay your bills, and a little something extra.
This sort of statement always infuriates me. These guys are working hard, making great music, performing, and full of creativity and love for the work. To dismiss that with ‘they’d never make it on the radio’ is unnecessary and cruel. So I dare you, readers, any time someone tells you a song you love would ‘never make it on the radio’ to come back at them with ‘but is it good?’ Because, then the person you’re talking to has to stop, has to think about it, and even if they don’t like it, you’ve reminded them of what music is for a moment, and that is ART, not commercial viability. Sometimes, those two things go hand in hand. Sometimes they don’t.
And I’m sorry, but I do have to disagree. I think, if we’re looking at steampunk bands versus the industry, Eli August is probably the most commercially viable of the bunch. It’s the closest in sound to the mainstream, but utilizes every instrument it can gets its hands on. This is a group of insanely talented individuals who clearly work well with others. Now, I’m selfish, I’ve seen commercial success destroy bands I’ve loved, so I hope they can just continue to happily support themselves the indie way, but I also think they have a sound that would appeal to a pretty wide audience.
So, when this year’s SPWF came around and I saw the schedule, with Eli August playing in the exact same time slot as Frenchy & the Punk, I was really upset, the kind of upset you get when someone kicks a puppy. This is a level of upset only a true music junkie can understand, because when you don’t get to see a band you love because of another band you love, how do you overcome that dilemma?! I wanted to see them again, but there was no way I could miss Frenchy & the Punk, who were my first steampunk love. LIFE WAS NOT FAIR.
Then, it rained. And, long story short, they ended up with a late night set that I stumbled across by pure accident. YES! I didn’t manage to catch the whole set (hopefully next year the schedule will be more kind), but I did catch a few songs, which just was an awesome cap to the day.
I picked up ‘To the Weak and the Weary’ last year, so this year I decided on the solo album, ‘Let this House Burn Slowly’ (both albums can be purchased through the band’s website: here). I’m normally one for digital music over CDs, if only because I have such a limited amount of space for STUFF, but I have to admit I’m really glad I picked this one up physically. There is something you lose with digital music, and that’s the attention to detail it takes to put together a physical album, choices of font and color, colors that somehow just become more intoxicating when you can hold them in your hand. There’s an art to this sort of thing that gets lost with digital media. And, while a lot of phyisical CDs you look at and it’s just a CD, nothing to get excited about, ‘Let this House Burn Slowly’ is pretty.
And, it only gets better when you open the lyric jacket. I would say if there is one CD you buy a physical copy of, this would be a really good one to choose (though I’m sure it’s also available digitally), there’s just something about it that lends to the tactile sensation. It’s got such a simple beauty to it I nearly want to frame it.
Now, I’ve only had the chance to listen to this one all the way through once so far (it really deserves a solid, uninterrupted listen from start to finish to get a really solid feel for it), the song that stood out for me was ‘Lion’:
which has so much loss and longing and pure poetry in it that it gets stuck in my head every time I listen to it.
I know all of these steampunk music posts have just been me gushing like a happy fan for the most part, but I really don’t see much purpose in bashing things I don’t like. It’s better to lift up the things I do, and these are all really fantastic bands.
Eli August is the last of my top 3 steampunk bands, but I do have several other bands to talk about, some that I saw for the first time this year, others that are just plain good fun. I might continue to post individually about them, but I also might start pairing a few up that I don’t have quite so much backstory on, just so I can get through them all before wasting the rest of my life on this one festival.
Until Next Time, loving all my new albums, and hoping you’re loving the bands just as much as I do.