The alternative folk-pop outfit Milky Chance performed a sold-out show Sept. 10 at the Jam Cellars Ballroom, located above Blue Note Napa, sponsored by BottleRock Presents.
Having only been acquainted with their 2013 breakout single “Stolen Dance,” I went into the show largely unfamiliar with the bulk of their musical catalogue, which currently spans over two full-length studio albums: Sadnecessary in 2013 and Blossom in 2017.
What I witnessed was an eclectic display of versatile musicianship, a dazzling light show, and a spark of hope for the future of alternative music in Napa.
Milky Chance is an indie-pop group from Germany consisting of Clemens Rehbein, Philipp Dausch, and Antonio Gregor.
Because I was familiar with only their first single, I assumed Milky Chance to be another radio-friendly alternative band who wrote and performed most of their music electronically — not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just prefer real instruments in the majority of the music I listen to.
What I did not expect was the full four-piece band including an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, full drum set, and an auxiliary percussionist that doubled as the band’s bassist for certain songs. From the moment the band opened with “Ego,” the second track off Blossom, I knew that my expectations were about to be subverted.
What impressed me from the outset of their performance was that their songs, while incorporating a significant electronic influence, were primarily dominated by frontman Rehbein’s acoustic guitar and soulful vocals.
As a singer-songwriter myself, it was inspiring to see how well the full band and backtracks revolved around Rehbein’s performance in an age when acoustic music is beginning to seem antiquated and irrelevant on mainstream radio.
The band combined elements of indie, pop, folk, reggae, and soul music into one powerful and emotive sound, and the packed audience absolutely thrived off of it. Each member of the band displayed incredible musicianship skills with their respective instruments.
A standout moment of the show was during the song “Peripeteia” when guitarist Dausch busted out a wailing harmonica solo that lasted for more than a minute and a half.
Aside from their phenomenal musical performance, the band’s light show delighted the crowd in a kaleidoscope of swirling colors that surged and swelled with the beat of the music.
I also appreciated was how little the band spoke on stage; it added to the seamless flow of the show. I have seen concerts put on by some of my favorite bands that are spoiled by too much talking between songs. Bands should always leave their fans wanting more as opposed to giving them more than they need.
A saying my older brother would constantly drill into me as a youth in a budding rock band was always, “less talk, more rock.”
If I had one criticism about the show, the venue turned on the house lights in between every song. I’m not sure if this was a decision made by the band or Jam Cellars Ballroom. While it certainly didn’t ruin the show it did break the immersion of the music.
It also was incredible to see 700 people showing up for an alternative band in downtown Napa on a Monday night, something that I would not have expected to see 5-10 years ago.
In a music scene that seemed to be dominated by cover bands for years, it is both refreshing and inspiring to see this musical renaissance in my hometown, celebrating original material and largely fostered by events such as BottleRock, the Napa Valley Jazz Festival, Napa City Nights and the Napa PorchFest. Shows like these reinforce my own musical passion and inspire hope for the future of live music in the Napa Valley.