Live Review: These United States @ Gallery 5, March 4

Let the Great Experiment begin. But what is the Great Experiment, you might wonder? In the world of These United States, the Great Experiment is simple. 33 cities. 33 shows. Why not try to make each show as special and unique as possible? Advance copies of These United States’ debut album A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden were sent to bands on each of the bills in each of the 33 cities to be visited, so that the bands could learn some of the songs. The plan was to have just a few songs done by the members of These United States on their own, before sharing the stage with some local talent for a truly personalized experience. Oh, and the local bands were given free reign as to which songs from the album they wanted to perform. Nifty, no?

And so, night 2 of the tour saw the Great Experiment roll into Richmond. Marionette was the local band chosen to partake in the experimentation, which made me happy because, having seen them before, I knew and liked them and felt they’d make sweet music with These United States. The traveling These United States foursome took the stage second, which was a complete switcheroo from what was supposed to happen (tUS were advertised as headlining), but there was method to the madness. Jesse Elliott, ringleader of the Great Experiment, explained that it made sense for them to go second so as Marionette could help out, and then Marionette would go on, with These United States reciprocally guesting on a couple songs.

As expected, These United States were as fantastic as I knew they would be, really expanding upon the foundation laid by the album. After doing their thing for a few numbers, the members of Marionette joined the lads, cozying up the stage. The addition of Marionette made it clear what’s so great about the Great Experiment: it’s all about the interpretation. Sure, I already loved the fantastical folky poppy rockness of the album on its own, but throwing new musicians into the mix added a richness and fullness, and new angles to songs that made for a special treat. My favorite moment of the night was “Burn This Bridge,” which with the members of Marionette partaking, filled every inch of Gallery 5 with its warm, steadily building noise. It was an especially beautiful song in a set full of them. This is a band that obviously loves what they do, and is just happy making music and sharing it with the world. If you’re in the path of the Great Experiment, I can’t recommend enough that you go experience it for yourself.

(photo by Laura O’Neill)


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