Sexy, stylish and seriously seductive. This dream pop duo infused romance with melody, crafting a musical love potion that left us all under their spell.
Some time ago in the thriving heart of California, stars aligned for Angela Gail Mattson & Jeffrey Jacob Mendel. Both originating from different backgrounds, fate decided these two talented musicians would have a chance meeting in Los Angeles, setting the gears in motion for the eventual birth of their artistic collaboration. Despite their modest beginnings as relative newcomers in the L.A. music scene, In the Valley Below quickly cemented themselves into Indie history after releasing their very first single; "Peaches". This wistful song resonated well with a wide range of listeners, myself included, placing them on the map as a notable band brimming with unique creativity.
Fast forward three years to a hot July night in Indianapolis, I anxiously awaited to inspect the development of this musical duo I admired in the past. There was a point in time where I lost track of their progress, I was heavily involved in a certain rhythm & blues tour that diverted attention away from my other music interests. However, being disconnected from their exploits made this moment even more impactful. Not only would novelty value be restored for the songs I already love, but new music would be debuted as well. Their latest EP "Elephant" was released only a week before this concert, I avoided checking it out to save the fresh listening experience for the live performance. Would I enjoy their new content? I'd only need to wait a couple hours to find out.
Thankfully, there was an impressive opening band to assist with passing the time. Flagship; an alternative rock ensemble with a non-traditional front man arrangement. Vocalist Drake Margolnick & drummer Michael Finster share the leadership role, equally contributing to their overall stage presence. The equipment setup clearly represented this, with the drums kit stationed forward for a more visible placement in close proximity to Drake's center position, ideal for their witty banter interjected between songs. Armed with charismatic comradery, they slowly persuaded the timid audience to come closer and interact with them.
Once everyone obliged and crept up closer to the stage, Drake & Michael began chipping away at the crowds reserved exterior. Combining an exuberant performing style with their humorous personas, they eventually inspired the audience to finally break out of their comfort zone. One slightly tipsy member of the crowd took it upon themselves to judge their performance with various school styled grade scores, boisterously shouting, "That was totally a B+!" after one of their songs concluded. Flagship wasn't going to settle for anything less than an A+ rating. Renewing their efforts; they increased the tempo in addition to some stronger vocal tones, producing truly powerful Americana rock anthems I could easily imagine playing during a triumphant movie scene. Simplistic in nature yet intricate enough to remain interesting, their music retains a certain sense of uplifting charm alongside moody undertones, crafting a fine balance of trepidation and hope. Our spirits were fully renewed by the time Flagship concluded their set, in the end they definitely earned that A+ grade.
Like thunder in an approaching storm, a low rumble gave way to turbulent beats accompanied by pulsating flashes of light. Two imposing figures appear amidst the chaos, immediately seizing the attention of every soul in this shadowy lounge. Melodrama defined the beginning of In the Valley Below's performance, setting a serious tone that made one feel like they're witnessing an impactful occasion. The dark gritty undercurrents were alluring; Angela rattling her chains to the rhythm of "Searching for A Devil" was seductively domineering, perfectly complimenting the Southern Gothic style they have fully embraced. Despite the intensity of their personas, they manage to infuse romantic qualities that ward off any potential gloom; affectionately gazing into each other's eyes while gently embracing throughout the performance.
Silence swept over the bar, Jeffery & Angela gently stepped off stage with an acoustic guitar in hand, making their way towards the center of the audience; everyone quickly formed a circle around them, curiously wondering what was in store. Delicate strumming accompanied by soothing vocals, their stripped down rendering of "Hymnal" instilled a sense of tranquility, refreshing the atmosphere with a brief interlude from their formidable stage characterizations.
Shifting back into gear to kick off the second half of their performance, fresh material from their recent EP release was unveiled for our listening pleasure. An exciting yet nerve-racking experience, there's always the fear of being disappointed by new songs from musicians you adore. Thankfully, they didn't deviate far from their original sound I grew to love over the years, retaining their dreamy indie rock roots. Despite the familiarity of their tonality, there is evidence of edge injected into their writing style. Clearly prevalent in "Bloodhands" with its heavy handed drum beats and robust guitar chords, this powerful song intricately melds dark lyrics with a catchy rock rhythm, appealing to the angst ridden masses in need of release.
Eventually coming to it's conclusion, In the Valley Below wrapped up the gig with traditional bowing gestures, thanking their fans before exiting the stage. However, the audience had not achieved closure yet, chanting for an encore. Angela & Jeffrey obliged of course; I sense they're the crowd pleasing variety of performers, not wanting anyone to leave feeling unfulfilled. They fit one more song into their set list, much to the satisfaction of everyone attending this one of a kind concert. Everything considered, the caliber of these two musicians almost felt out of place in a small music venue such as the Hi-Fi, I could easily imagine the same performance playing out just as successfully in a larger theatrical setting. Then again, I definitely enjoy the close intimate feeling of these types of gigs, there's nothing else quite like it.