Review: V.V. Lightbody & Rose Hotel Serenaded a Packed Schubas

When V.V. Lightbody, the solo project of Vivian McConnell, announced an album release show at Schubas, I knew I had to be there. McConnell's work with Grandkids and Santah has always been a favorite of mine and her own personal songs as V.V Lightbody always stood out to me. Little did I know just how amazing an evening it would, thanks to a packed Schubas both on stage and in the crowd. Rose Hotel, the musical project of Jordan Reynolds, started off the night with her gentle and utterly gorgeous songs. Standing alone on the Schubas stage, she tuned her guitar and quickly asked “can we turn the lights all red?” She was immediately engulfed in a bright red hue that persisted throughout her set. She effortlessly dove in to her songs about relationships that felt truly unique in a sea of singer songwriters. “Honestly” stood out immediately as her voice shined brightest with the song’s sullen lyrics. The song’s lament of an ending relationship feel so different than the typical break up songs you’ve often heard, taking a more grown up approach. It’s something that is felt throughout her songs and performance. In the middle of her set , Reynold performed a cover of Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run the Game”. Reynold’s straight forward performance of the song felt so intimate and personal, letting its simplicity run over you just like the red stage lights encompassed her. Before long, it came time for V.V. Lightbody’s set. I was half expecting a similar performance to that of Rose Hotel’s, something simple that felt impressive because of it. Instead I was met with something far bigger and more grandiose. Vivian McConnell, the driving force of V.V. Lightbody, came to the stage with huge band full of friends and local talents, including the entirety of Ohmme. Seven members taking drums, woodwinds, bass, and backing vocals duties made for an astounding sound that truly made McConnell’s release show feel like something special. McConnell took no time in getting into her songs. Most had been gestating for so long, being played at countless shows but never truly available. With this release show for Bathing Peach, they finally felt complete, sounding their fullest and at their most confident with the full band. Her set followed along the album’s track list for the most part, with a few deviations and switch ups along the way. The meditating aura of “Gaze” started things off wonderfully, blending into “Fig Leaves just as perfectly as it does on the album. This more folk forward sound is in deep contrast to her more rocking outfits Santah and Grandkids, but it feels completely hers. The songs pack a punch as they are performed with such unbridled determination. Take "Jawbones" and it's closing verse that starts "I've loved so many men, men who have turned back to boys". there was o much unpacked in those lines, pushed forward so elegantly by McConnell and crew. A few new songs were thrown in the mix, like "Allowance" and "Car Alarm", which caused McConnell to joke about the long journey in releasing Bathing Peach. “This record took so long to make, I have another one ready to rip!” There were so many moments like this that felt like pure relief and happiness coming from the stage. Towards the end of the set, McConnell was joined by Rose Hotel a rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Help” which felt utterly perfect in their voice. Even McConnell had to express just how perfectly the night was going. The evening felt truly magical as band members drifted on and off stage, weaving through the crowd to mingle with friends watch V.V. Lightbody perform. It was a fluid performance that never felt forced or restrained. McConnell gave Schubas a fantastic performance that showcased just how good her album is and hopefully how good and quickly her next will emerge. All photos by Julian Ramirez
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Julian Ramirez