NEW YORK, NY—It’s amazing how sometimes the Highline Ballroom can feel like a large music hall and then other times have the vibe of a small, intimate club. A new and unexpected feeling was taken on by the venue when Valencia ended their short winter tour with Automatic Loveletter. Having just come from the frigid winter weather outside, it was like a warm breeze hitting you upon entering the venue and seeing the bright lights and the crowd full of smiles.
It was a long show day, with opening bands The Call Out and Terrible Things leading up to Mercy Mercedes, who were just ending their set as I was arriving. A strong ending from them made me wonder what the rest of their set had been like. Blame it being a Sunday that the show was an early one, causing me to miss the majority of the line-up.
While not a country band, there was a bit of a country vibe hidden in the music of Automatic Loveletter, whose strong instrumentals and even stronger vocals made you take notice. It always happens to me that I refuse to check out bands that have quite the buzz around them. Then by chance, I’ll catch a set of theirs and kick myself for not listening sooner; Automatic Loveletter turned out to be one of those bands.
Lead singer Juliet Simms of Automatic Loveletter is one of those female vocalists that can rival any of her male counterparts. Soulful, gritty and still pop music-friendly, her voice is the perfect companion to the music produced by her bandmates. Especially with a song like “Heart Song,” this band comes together, full force to let you know they’re more than just your average pop rock band.
I couldn’t help but think to myself how Simms is a girl that other songstresses wish they could be. Her outfit raised a few eyebrows with lace top and somewhat too short shorts that was borderline Taylor Momsen, but Simms pulled it off with class. Her bandmates weren’t trying to win any fashion awards and stuck with keeping the music sounding perfect. Before they ended their set, they covered one of my favorite tunes, “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger.
Last for the evening was Valencia who did not hesitate to bring their energy to the stage. I had taken a seat for the evening’s show, but was dancing along with every song in my chair. They even went ahead and played their cover of The Kinks’ “Father Christmas,” which sounded good, but felt somewhat campy in its delivery. The standout moment of their set came not from a super catchy crowd pleaser, but rather something a bit more serious. With acoustic guitars, they performed “Still Need You Around (Lost Without You),” which is about the fact that loved ones may not always been there, especially for singer Shane Henderson whose mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Valencia is just that perfectly constructed pop rock band, who knows how to bring energy and life to the stage and still maintain a maturity that keeps your attention. Though they hail from the East coast, I couldn’t help but think of them as an upbeat, sunny Californian band. The thought of summer and living carefree could not escape my mind, especially with winter really setting in outside, and the night’s line-up was the perfect combination to take me away.