When the show started with two crew members rolling out a large white sheet like a shield in front of the stage, my interest was immediately piqued. What was about to happen? Was this going to be the whole show? I felt like the odd one out as it seemed that everyone else at the half alive show knew what was going on. When lights from behind the white shield illuminated the outline of lead singer Josh Taylor onto the sheet like a shadow puppet, it clicked. This was performance art.
Alt-indie pop trio half alive performed at Emo’s Austin on April 17th at 9 pm. After the opening acts of Dev Lemons and Tessa Violet, the crowd was rambunctious, filling the soaring ceilings with cheers and screams of awe and devotion for the entirety of the set.
“Never Been Better’s” punchy refrain was punctuated by pop-and-lock style dancing from two dancers. Buttery vocals, an easy mid-tempo beat and high-octave guitar make this a classic indie-pop song. A cover of Phil Collins’ “Stranger Like Me” teleported the audience back to their childhood, a chorus of now grown children’s voices swinging through the rafters. The piano version might not have the vivacity of the original song, but Taylor’s vocals and key twinkling made it feel like a living room performance. “Hot Tea” explores the emotional openness of hoping to be someone’s everything. Shrouded in an 808, the studio version differs slightly from half alive’s standard alt-pop discography. However, live, this song easily merges with the other tunes. A synth pad and Taylor’s reliable mid-upper range vocal performance, effortlessly show the versatility and live capabilities of the trio.
Even with the razor-sharp dance moves of the two dancers with the periodic addition of Taylor, crashing cymbals and silky smooth bass, the part that stood out to me was the crowd. One would expect that much electricity, choral singing and level of applause from stadium sellouts. half alive turned Emo’s into their own stadium, showing that with decent music and a dedicated fan base, one does not need to sell out arenas to know they have found their people.