Live Review: Cut Off Your Hands @ Iota, June 5, 2009

I have to say, Cut Off Your Hands is rapidly becoming one of my bands of the year. Having seen them at South by Southwest and at the Black Cat already, I happily drove up 95 for another chance to see some of my favorite Kiwis. Below is the review I wrote for RVA, with photos graciously provided by Adam Kissick.

"“Oh shit,” was the horrified, wide-eyed sentiment collectively chorused by New Zealand’s rising stars Cut Off Your Hands when they learned I was reviewing their performance at Iota, opening for Viva Voce. “What are you gonna say?” they all frowned and fretted, and were genuinely relieved when I promised kind words would be imparted. I wasn’t just giving them lip service, either. A Cut Off Your Hands show, regardless of whether or not you catch them after staying out entirely too late in New York the night before, will always be pretty darn great, no two ways about it.Trust me, I’ve already seen them thrice this year, and would gladly see them a dozen more times if I could.

Despite mouthpiece Nick Johnston’s wary disclaimers about the band’s NYC indulgences, you’d just about never know the band was the least bit tired (well, save for maybe a dark under eye circle hither and yon). The audience, which was a bit on the small side for a Friday night crowd in Arlington, was treated to a solid, if a bit short-ish, eight song set. As much as I love them on record, I’m convinced that COYH is an even better live band. Their exuberant, bright-eyed pop with bite is even more animated, more robust, and more appealing, not to mention of course that the boys themselves are ever so charming in the flesh.

They began the set with one of my favorites, “You & I”, a shouty, frenetic firecracker perfect for kicking things off. A trio of high-energy, catchy as can be songs followed: “It Doesn’t Matter”, “Oh Girl”, and “Turn Cold”. The first line of drinker’s delight “It Doesn’t Matter” seemed perfectly apropos on this night (“I woke up drunk once again this afternoon”), a case of life imitating art, perhaps. The sweeping, grandiose single “Happy As Can Be” was up next, and once again the band didn’t disappoint. I’m a not-so-closeted fan of a good ballad, so when the opening chords of “Nostalgia” started coming from the stage, I inwardly squealed like a fluttering-hearted schoolgirl. O, the crooning, the gentle strum of Jono’s guitar, the “oooooh” choruses. It was a dreamy, languid moment amongst a sea of delirious dizziness. Naturally, the lovely ballad was followed by one of the most danceable songs in the Cut Off Your Hands catalog, “Let’s Get Out of Here.” The summery ode to careless youthful abandon got quite a few of the increasingly less and less stoic Arlingtonians dancing (ever-so-slightly, of course). The last song, “Still Fond”, came much too soon, and just like that it was over. The boys left the stage to fairly enthusiastic cheers, including hearty hollering from the khaki-clad contingent sitting near me at the bar, and I’m pretty sure they won themselves several new fans. My one complaint was the omission of their bitchin’ cover of Split Enz’s “Shark Attack”, which when confronted with my displeasure all four vigorously assured me next time it would be back on the setlist.

After the show, as we kicked it with some drinks, I asked the band to sum up the show in one word. Nick, who was so (unnecessarily) apologetic even after a thumbs-up set, went for “hungover.” A somewhat glazed-over Phil, bassist extraordinaire, needed some time to marinate, eventually settling on “Shock Top.” Not being a beer connoisseur (hard liquor, if you please), I initially thought he was trying to stump me with some Kiwi slang I wasn’t familiar with. Only later on did I come to find he was referring to the pint in front of him. Jono, the somewhat quiet and rather tall guitarist, asked if we could throw proper grammatical caution to the wind for his answer, which was “reallyfuckinggood.” I’m definitely in agreement with him on that point, run-on and all. And Elroy, the delightful new drummer, chose the Zen-like “content” for his summation. Bottom line, though, we were all pretty much on the same page. It was a damn fine show.

All in all, the evening was well worth the $40 parking ticket left for me by the overzealous Arlington parking patrol. Perhaps if they’d seen Cut Off Your Hands, they’d have been in too good a mood to dole out infractions."


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