Saturday, June 21, 2014
Uh Huh Her - Future Souls Tour (Belly Up Tavern, June 19, 2014)
I did not know that Leisha Hailey, bassist for the electropop duo Uh Huh Her, was also an actress, apparently best known as one of the stars of Showtime's The L Word (2004 - 2009). I did not know that Hailey was, in real life, an out lesbian, who had dated none other than k.d. lang herself for a number of years. I did not realize that Camila Grey, lead vocalist and guitarist of Uh Huh Her, was also openly gay, and had, in fact, been romantically linked to Hailey. I had not heard the story of their having been kicked off a Southwest flight, allegedly for arguing with a flight attendant over their public display of affection ("Leisha Hailey escorted off Southwest jet after kissing girlfriend." Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2011). I honestly had no idea that Hailey and Grey were lesbian icons of any sort. But that became very clear very quickly, as I went to see Uh Huh Her perform at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA, where the crowd was 95 percent female, mostly girls each with an arm around another girl. And, in case that wasn't clue enough (and I never jump to conclusions!), I overheard the girl next to me say to her companion, "They're such lesbian icons, y'know?" Well, now I know.
Prior to seeing them perform live, all I knew about Uh Huh Her was that I really dug their debut album, Common Reaction (2008), at its best resembling the progeny of Depeche Mode and Garbage—channeling the new wave in its synths, and with grittier vocals and an all-around darker, moodier, subtly more menacing sound than many contemporary electropop acts. With their recent third LP, Future Souls (2014), they went entirely electronic. While the album has overall more of a dance sound, its best tracks ("Innocence," "Bullet," "Fine Lines White Lies") retain the soulful swells, intimate harmonies, and haunting edge of Common Reaction, along with more polished and sophisticated production that lends the synth a cinematic flavor.
The quality of the songwriting also came to the fore during the live show, where, in contrast to the arrangements on the Future Souls album, Hailey and Grey stuck to their bass and guitar almost throughout, only switching to their keyboards on a few select songs or parts of songs. With just a lone drummer added to back them up, the sound was more minimalist than on the album, yet surprisingly it had the feel of a hard rock show. Missing a large portion of the synth component, Uh Huh Her live did not sound very much like they do on the albums, yet the melodies and lyrics carried through intact and continued to stand out, while Camila Grey's raw guitar solos were impressively legit.