Before Friday night’s show at Los Angeles’ Bootleg Bar, I had never heard of Ha Ha Tonka. I had never heard the name. I had never heard the music. Hell, I didn’t even know the namesake was a state park in southern Missouri.
The Springfield, Missouri-based quartet headlined the show, and to be quite honest, by the time their set started, I was ready to go home and go to sleep, but even so, I felt I should give the band the courtesy to listen to a song or two before leaving As soon as the southern outfit struck its first note, and frontman Brian Roberts belted out his first vocals, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. Rooted in Americana, the talented musicians branch out, dabbling in genres including southern rock, bluegrass, folk, country, and a style coined from their fans, “foot-stompin’ indie rock.” This description is accurate, considering my foot, as well as every other foot in the venue, tapped incessantly for the hour-long duration of the cowboy shirt-clad quartet’s set.
Aside from playing infectiously catchy tunes, these guys were spectacular musicians. The music was precise and vast, and each band member contributed to four-piece harmonies, expanding the range from low bass to high baritone. In fact, Roberts paused the fast-paced set for a brief a capella performance that blew me away.
When Ha Ha Tonka announced its last song, the crowd immediately erupted in cheer, yelling “encore,” and “play ten more songs.” The southern rockers obliged, returning to the stage for a few more tunes. Tourmates, and fellow Missourians, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltin, accompanied the band on stage, and the four-piece turned into an eight-piece to cover Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova.”
Los Angeles electro pop darlings, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, kicked the night off with its sparkling, synth-driven melodies, getting the crowd pumped up and ready to dance. Led by Mike Lee, the quintet’s glimmering pop tunes translated into raw indie tracks live—a refreshing change from the record’s pristine production. You can catch Letting Up at Bootleg Bar on January 23, or at South by Southwest in March. Below is a list of Ha Ha Tonka 2012 tour dates.
Ha Ha Tonka 2012 tour dates:
January 11 @ three20south in Breckenridge, CO w/ Tea Leaf Green
January 12 @ Belly Up in Aspen, CO w/ Tea Leaf Green
January 13 @ Agave in Avon, CO w/ Tea Leaf Green
January 14 @ Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO w/ Tea Leaf Green
January 15 @ Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins, CO w/ Tea Leaf Green
January 18 @ The Mill in Iowa City, IA w/ Tea Leaf Green
January 19 @ High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI w/ Tea Leaf Green
January 20 @ Lincoln Hall in Chicago, IL w/ Tea Leaf Green
January 21 @ 20th Century Theater in Cincinnati, OH w/ Tea Leaf Green
February 3 @ Uncle Slayton's in Louisville, KY - Headline Show
February 4 @ Casa Cantina in Athens, OH - Headline Show
February 7 @ Fete Lounge in Providence, RI - Headline Show
February 8 @ BAR in New Haven, CT - Headline Show
February 9 @ Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA w/ Tea Leaf Green
February 10 @ The Bowery Ballroom in NYC, NY w/ Tea Leaf Green
February 12 @ The Haunt in Ithaca, NY w/ Tea Leaf Green
February 15 @ The State Theatre in State College, PA w/ Tea Leaf Green
February 16 @ Mr. Small’s Theater in Millvale, PA w/ Tea Leaf Green
February 17 @ World Café Live in Philadelphia, PA w/ Tea Leaf GreenFebruary 18 @ 9:30 Club in Washington, DC w/ Tea Leaf Green
February 19 @ The Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA w/ Tea Leaf Green