You could call Friday night’s Echoplex show a victory lap for Aussie indie rockers Middle Kids. It represented their last show of 2018, touring in support of their successful debut full-length record Lost Friends.
Los Angeles has been kind to the trio. Their newest single “Salt Eyes” was recorded in indie rock legend Ryan Adams’ studio. The band made the pit stop at Adams’ Pax•Am Studios the last time they rolled through LA on tour. Bandleader Hannah Joy kicked into that song second on the setlist and it was among the night’s top moments.
Middle Kids have this nostalgic sound. It’s reminiscent of that moment in the ’90s when alt-rock started to be a little less somber in the melodies than what grunge had brought to the table. Bands like Goo Goo Dolls, Soul Asylum, and Gin Blossoms injected catchy hooks into their melancholy songwriting and distorted guitars. Middle Kids sounds cut from the same cloth.
“Old River” from the band’s breakout 2017 self-titled EP most fits that vibe. It sounds like it would have fit nicely alongside “Ain’t That Unusual” on A Boy Named Goo in 1995. This stood out as one of my favorite songs from the set Friday.
“Maryland” was preempted by a funny story about a guy at the merch table saying it wasn’t a state. Joy said she lived there and was pretty sure it is a state. It’s a slow-burner of a tune with an almost blink-182 “Stay Together For The Kids” guitar riff.
Joy then played old EP tune “Doing It Right” just solo on the piano. It was one of the more moving moments of the night and the LA crowd stayed respectfully quiet. After getting through the heavy tune, she broke up the sadness by celebrating The Echo’s snack game and Goldfish crackers being tops.
“Fire In Your Eyes” is another tune from the self-titled EP that proves why this band has been successfully making the festival rounds. They closed things out with lead single from their debut record “Mistake”. That song had one of the best choruses of 2018. It’s the kind of chorus you shout with the windows rolled down on a road trip. “You’re standing out in the rain tonight / Like you got something to say to God / You’ve got a debt to pay back / For something you did way back,” Joy shouts.
I’m hopeful we see this Aussie group on some more American festival bills in 2019. They’ve earned it and are further proof in the ongoing case that rock and roll isn’t dead.