Lower Dens performs at Mohawk Place

Indie rock-pop band has modern twist on '80s pop

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Jana Hunter is a standout performer.

The impassioned performance she gave, jumping around stage, giving winding guitar riffs and singing her songs won over the Mohawk Place crowd..

The singer of Lower Dens gave a passionate performance at Mohawk Place on Thursday, playing for the first time in Buffalo. The band, hailing from Baltimore, was formed in 2010.

The progressive indie rock band was clearly influenced by the pop of the ’80s. Throughout the entire night, their sound was so reminiscent of an earlier generation of music, as the band performed all of their biggest hits: “To Die in L.A.,” “Ondine” and “Electric Current.”

After the show, Hunter talked to different members of the crowd who wanted to talk to her.

Hunter said her music career isn’t something she “chose” to pursue.

“I just make music and that’s what I love,” she said. “I don’t try to copy anything else, I just do what I’m good at, and like what I like.”

The band has been on the rise ever since their first album Twin-Hand Movement. The band’s newest album, Escape From Evil, is lauded by many as a representative of a new sonic frontier for dream pop, a modern take on genre-pioneers Beach House’s combination of spiraling shoe-gaze and nostalgia pop.

Thematically, Lower Dens is among the most progressive bands out there.

The lead single off of Escape From Evil, “To Die in L.A.,” functions as a queer retelling of the story of William’s Friedkin’s 1985 drama To Live and Die in L.A.

The themes obviously hit close to home for Hunter, who identifies as gender fluid, or non-binary, uses her gender fluidity as inspiration for her lyrics – often ambiguous, evocative images full of stories about queer culture.

Hunter is also very outspoken of her Baltimore community.

In July, Hunter wrote an op-ed for Pitchfork titled: “White Privilege and Black Lives in Baltimore Music Scene.”

Many people in the crowd came for the music – but a handful came just too see Hunter, having read and heard about her activism through different media outlets or the Internet.

Sarah Lachir, a Baltimore native, has been working merchandise for Lower Dens, touring with them around the country. She said she has been with the band for two tours.

“I wanted to travel with this band because of how influential Hunter is in Baltimore,” Lachir said. “She tries to make a difference no matter what, and I just wanted to be involved however I could.”

In her music, Hunter’s songs never feel overwrought. She loved what she does and it shows in how she performs.

Neil Terry, from central New York, travelled to Buffalo to see them perform.

“The band just seems very sincere,” Terry said. “It makes a huge difference when it feels genuine.”

For non-fans who came out to see the band, they left the venue impressed with the show and with Mohawk Place’s consistency with bringing in quality live acts.

Tim and Beth Myrand, both Buffalo natives, said the wonderful part about coming to Mohawk is the diversity, both with music and the crowd.

“You never know what to expect,” Beth said. “It’s always a surprise.”

Brian Windschitl is the senior arts editor and can be reached at brian.windschitl@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @_brnwnd.