With music being as pervasive as it is in Nashville, I’ll be the first to admit that I find myself acting on presumption from time to time, for better or for worse. Such a fact lines up quite nicely with the subject of today’s live recap - Tall Heights. I had long been under the presumption that the self-ascribed (per their Facebook page) “electrofolk” duo was at one point or another, a “Nashville” band. As you might have gathered via the (see: yet another) precariously perceptible lede, Tall Heights were in fact, never a “Nashville” band.
So now that we’ve established that, yes, acting on presumption can be a tenuous activity, and altogether detrimental, but it’s presented in service of an appropriate point of emphasis - Nashville’s propensity for “claiming” bands. Why does the city act under such pretense? Perhaps it’s Nashville immense civic pride that pours over the ever brimming coffee cup that is Nashville, shared by transplants and locals alike. That’s one idea. One could also surmise it might be to the past decade or so of absolute zeitgeist boom, substantiated not by a particularly eponymous tv show, but rather the various entities that have erupted out of Nashville in recent years, along with the long standing “cornerstones” of Nashville’s diverse music scene.
Bands like Judah & the Lion, Colony House, serve the former of the preceding thought, while Ben Folds ties down the latter. Those three bands also happen to be the three most recent tour mates of Tall Heights in the past year, so there’s a look behind the curtain that was the tie-in ideation of a long and rambling lede. In all reality, the reason I had long assumed that Tall Heights had a most centralized Nashville connection was because an former (but beloved) boss who said repeatedly they were from Nashville, despite many informing him of their Boston roots.
Nevertheless, while we continue on with the fact that Tall Heights are, in fact, not from Nashville, let it be known that they are an idyllic Nashville stop-over. If the duo (plus percussionist “HP” short for “Handsome Patrick”)’s most recent (see: last night) visit to The High Watt was any indication, Tall Heights’ musical sensibilities and relatively sardonic personas were of great appeal to their admiring Nashville audience.
While Tall Heights’ High Watt stop was not the duo’s first Nashville show - they had just played the Ryman in November of 2017, opening for the aforementioned Ben Folds - it was their first headlining show in town. Such a fact led to an amusing confessional from guitarist Tim Harrington about the Ryman being an honor, but a club show such as the High Watt one was what he preferred, but wasn’t as straight forward.
Tim elected to use a snorkeling scenario as an allegory for one’s first Nashville show being at the Ryman - “It’s like the first time you go snorkeling, it’s at the Great Barrier Reef.” That led to cellist Paul Wright chiming in with a quick “RIP” to rib Harrington and get things back on track following the aside. They then jumped right into “Infrared.” And that was the show in a nutshell, more or less - playful and pithy asides subjugated by truly moving live renditions from the duo’s discography. One of the inarguable (of many) highlights from the set was the duo’s “unplugged” take on Leonard Cohen’s 1979 “Bird On the Wire.” It caused many a phone to emerge from pockets to film what was truly one of the best takes on the song in some time.
All in all, the show was something remarkable, with plenty moments of levity, depth, and virtual wonder (one song featured an intriguing speakerphone trick that created a virtuosic chorus of cell phone singularity). While Tall Heights might not be a Nashville band, it’s almost certain they’ll be back sometime soon, and well worth a look for any myriad reasons, but mostly because they’re just damn good.