Posted June 1 on Soundcheck magazineClad in a retro sailor-style dress with knee-high boots and her blonde hair in braided pigtails, the last thing you’d expect Blake Hazard to be holding is an electric guitar. But as the front-woman for the LA-based garage pop band The Submarines, she did just that on Thursday night as she rocked Brooklyn’s Union Hall, which she claimed to be her favorite stop yet on the band’s East Coast tour. And, yes, she was accompanied by two very committed and apt men, one supplying drums and the other electric guitar (played by her partner in all things music and love, John Dragonetti). But Hazard, with her guitar and flower-framed xylophone, easily stole the show.
While Dragonetti seemed to be all business, focused on the music, Hazard was playful and giggly, truly charming. Not to say she is any less of a musician, rotating between not only her guitar and xylophones but also a tambourine and the recorder-like melodica. After a slightly sticky opening due to a technical imbalance in sound levels (which Hazard handled with great poise, politely requesting several times for more sound on her vocals),the band seemed to warm up into a more cohesive whole.
But it still felt as though most of the energy from the stage flowed from Hazard and her wistful and expressive handling of the music. This energy was more akin to that of a mellow singer-songwriter show, which also calls to Hazard’s sweet but versatile voice. She has the vocal chops of a folk or blues singer and sings like she should be sitting with an acoustic guitar rather than planted firmly behind an electric one in a garage band. But this lends a surprising contrast to the band’s music and image, a brightness to the occasional overdriven sounds of Dragonetti’s guitar or the prominent percussion from the drumset.
The set at Union Hall included new songs as well as hits such as “Brighter Discontent”and “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie”. Anyone still unfamiliar with the latter song about “living the good life” and “fighting the good fight” will surely be charmed by its bright melodies and upbeat tempo as well as by the empathy in its lyrics: “Yeah I know we all want something fine/time for higher ceilings and bourgeois happy feelings... here we are in the center of the firstworld/ it’s laid out for us/ who are we to break down”.
Now and again there seemed to be a noticeable shift in energy, perhaps an indication of which songs the band favored or felt more confident playing. This was especially true in the vivacity of “Swimming Pool”, the first of a three song encore, which Hazard spontaneously and gleefully admitted that they had forgotten to play in the set.
There is something unique about seeing a band perform live, regardless of technical difficulties or improvisation within the songs. It’s rewarding just to see who is behind the music, witness and feel their energy as they play, and watch their interactions on stage. Undeniably, The Submarines are talented musicians and songwriters, which is evident in their sprightly songs, both on the albums and in a live show. But to see Hazard, like a rockstar version of the Swiss Miss girl, singing about life and love and playing with such childlike abandon, is the greatest reward of all.