December in the world of music is a strange and (at times) cumbersome beast. Not in the sense of burden, but rather, boredom. For all intents and purposes, every aspect of the music industry comes to a screeching halt once the charts shut down mid-December, and all that we (the music consuming masses) have to look forward to are Christmas music cash-ins and overblown Holiday-centric residencies (looking at you, Vince Gill and Amy Grant). But alas, every once and a while, there are a resilient few that never falter in booking a (much needed) non-Holiday date in the heart of the Holiday season. And so, that leads us to Illiterate Light at The Basement East, falling smack-dab in the throes of the week-before Christmas bonanza of modified canticles and carols.
Illiterate Light are an interesting duo with regard to the music scene(s) they claim - technically hailing from Virginia (Harrisonburg, to be precise), Jeff Gorman and Jake Cochran have somehow managed to ingratiate themselves into the chockablock East Nashville garage-lite rock. Needless to say, that is no easy feat, and certainly something that the writer would like to learn more about at a future date (hopefully in the form of an interview, but we shall see). They make the jaunt from VA to TN with relative regularity - two or three shows every two months or so - so for now, consider that the Cliff Notes version of Illiterate Light’s Nashville inauguration.
Anyway, let’s get back to the music, more specifically, The Basement East. It’s always a tough spot opening any show, especially one an evening four days out of Christmas, but fortunately for the sake of this recap, there was already a surprisingly (we’ll chalk up any skepticism to the Holiday) large gathering at The Basement East, and once Illiterate Light took the stage, they revealed themselves to be more than enthusiastic.
When attending any Illiterate Light show with fresh eyes, the first thing you’ll likely notice is that drummer Jake Cochran stands while playing/singing. Not a brand new concept, but the vigor with which Cochran plays certainly makes the feat something worth marveling at, much less noting. Imagine if Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats (he stood whilst playing) decided to adopt the hyper-precise yet helter skelter pocket poise of Darren King (formerly of MuteMath). Add the fact that he provides melodic vocals, and you have yourself one hell of a start to a set.
But let’s not get carried away with the novelty of Cochran’s percussive standing freneticism, as Jeff Gorman’s vocal elicit almost immediate memories of Fleet Foxes era Robin Pecknold, mixed quite nicely with Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog fame. In a nutshell, Illiterate Light sounds like Animal Collective listened to Dr. Dog’s B-Room and threw in Cochran and Gorman’s on stage panache to form a fine indie rock stew.
Naturally, such a consortium of influences/sonically synonymous acts is sure to educe many a fawning East Nashvillian (slight generalization, I know, but it works) to come out to a show, and as referenced earlier, they did. Illiterate Light wasted no time diving into what would become a fever pitched set, as onlookers screamed “Fucking awesome” and the like before and after Cochran took off his jacket to reveal (what seems to be) a trademark floral crop-top. Illiterate Light cover all sorts of indie rock cornerstones without coming off as try hard (which is an absolute delight/relief) - slight gender bending (crop top), frenzied stage presence (think the Shultz brothers of Cage the Elephant), and minimalism (two-piece).
In short, the set itself was just that - short. Realistically, they played a standard opening set - 8 songs - but the fact that the set still felt short is definitely something worth noting. Rest assured, the next time Illiterate Light plays in town, this writer will be in attendance.