Both psychedelic and introspective, Carroll’s live performance brought the band’s personal dreamland to Brooklyn.
It’s a Sunday night in Williamsburg, BK. Tucked away in the back room of Baby’s All Right, protected from the chill outside, an audience faces the stage in anticipation. The performers’ backdrop is a wall of lights in circular hollows and different pastel shades illuminate some tools for tonight’s show: a drum kit, a bass, a few guitars and microphones and, detected by the careful observer, a tambourine. In the middle stands a keyboard with CARROLL in holographic decals on its front.
Carroll – two r’s, two l’s – is an indie-rock band that bears roots in Minneapolis, MN after forming during the members’ college years. Composed of Brian Hurlow, Max Kulicke, Charles McClung, and Charlie Rudoy, the band has collectively grown longer hair and a steady following in the past few years, developing their sound into the depths of psychedelic rock and back again.
Last weekend at Baby’s All Right, the band kicked off the show with an ethereal instrumental before launching into “Bad Water,” one of their most popular songs and – based on the band’s on-stage presence — possibly one of the most enjoyable to perform. From the initial chords, each member dove into the music with the crowd, often closing their eyes and immersing themselves in the sound, which was rhythmic, textured and emotionally-rich on this night.
Without pause, the band transitioned into their next song, “Green Acres.” During the switch, vocalist Brian Hurlow grooved along with the music, singing a little tune in homage to the venue and fellow artists and the night’s headliner, Bad Bad Hats.
It’s gonna be alright,
We’re gonna have some Bad Bad Hats.
Baby, it’s gonna be alright.
Into “Green Acres,” Carroll’s sound was dominated by effortless, rolling percussions executed by drummer Rudoy. Frequently, the band’s grounding forces seem to lie in the bass and drums as their music often feels like a wave rolling over you, plucking up the listeners and placing them into the dream that inspired the track. Hurlow’s lyrics contribute to this sensation — often bordering the line between reality and fantasy, almost always a somewhat beautiful tribute to shared memories — but it would be a fault to ignore the dynamic harmonies contributed by bassist McClung and the plucky guitar-riffs rippled out by Kulicke.
Midway through the set, the band requested exclusively blue lighting on-stage. The change was met with an approving “oh yeah!” from the crowd as the lights bathed the artists in deep blue, well-suited to Carroll’s dreamy beats. The band then sings of tide pools and passing by the same star twice, their tunes resembling New York favorites such as Porches and Strange Names, before breaking between songs to switch up and readjust instruments.
“Does anybody have any questions about our music?” Hurlow asks.
A woman, walking through the crowd nearby, yells, “How’d you get so awesome?”
The vocalist doesn’t seem to hear, asking once more before the band dips into the next track, “Red Giant,” from their most recent release As Far as Gardens Go. According to their site, the band recorded the album whilst touring, tracing their movement from Minnesota to Pennsylvania and, in a way, tracing their growing up. The penultimate track, “Talking to my Own Mirage,” is also from this album and demonstrates a maturation in both sound and performance; the band members are pleasant, easy on-stage and happy to be in New York. After a pause and walloping instrumental build-up, the music cuts. The crowd hollers in approval.
“Sunday night. New York, what’s going on?” Hurlow calls out and the crowd whoops once more. Band members laugh together as Hurlow responds, “That line always works – it even gets me excited!”
Performing one last track, the band thanks the crowd for coming out before stepping down off the stage to catch up with some old friends and mix with undoubtedly more than a few new fans. The stage remains bathed in Carroll’s deep blue for a few moments before white lights go up and the preparation begins for the next performers.