Lower Dens Citadel High School, Halifax NS, July 8

Lower Dens Citadel High School, Halifax NS, July 8
Photo: Richard Lann
After recording and touring as a solo artist — and giving it up because the personal nature of the music made it uncomfortable to share on stage — Jana Hunter formed Lower Dens to create music intended to be performed live. So, it's no surprise that the Baltimore-based indie pop crew know how to put on a tight show.
During their evening Gridlock slot, Jana Hunter commanded the stage (and was given the freedom to wander it at leisure thanks to a headset mic), joined only by drummer Nate Nelson. Between wild guitar effects, drums and electronic manipulation from the pair, though, the output sounded much larger than that of just two musicians.
The setlist drew heavily from last year's Escape from Evil, including high points "To Die in L.A.," "Ondine" and "I Am the Earth," each song propelled by Hunter's powerful voice. Bouncing between fierce wails and a soft croon, it managed to convey a range of melodramatic emotion.
Early banter was light, with Hunter playfully riffing on fan adoration of the "cute drummer" and telling an endearing story about running into a couple earlier in the day— also from Baltimore — that had come to Halifax celebrate their 40th anniversary earlier (and assumed that Lower Dens were on the bill for a Lebanese festival that was simultaneously taking place in the city).
That levity dissipated, however, when Hunter addressed the situation in Dallas — expressing concern for the turmoil in their home state, deeming it "so fucked up" and calling it a "scary" place to live. The damning assessment was followed by lauding Canada as an example that the United States should look to.
The set ended with a gracious farewell from Hunter, before the singer's voice was drowned out by instrumentation on the final song, easing the crowd down from an emotionally charged set.