Review | Sugar and the Hi-Lows @ Great Scott


If there’s anybody reading this who lived in JP more than say 3 or 4 years ago, you’ll know the special appeal of Sugar and the Hi-Lows. See, there was this grocery store called the Hi-Lo, and it was kind of iffy some of the time – once I found a meat package with a bone poking out through the plastic, and you had to be really selective about your produce – but it was cheap and it served the community for decades, and it had a super sweet 60s sign. Naturally, it got bought out and turned into a Whole Foods.

I hope that this band does not get turned into a Whole Foods.

Let’s back up. Last week, I went down to Allston to see Sugar and the Hi-Lows at Great Scott. They were supported by fellow Nashville artist Marc Scibilia, with whom they have made a little tour family. It was sweet to see how much they enjoy each other’s company.

Scibilia got the evening started with a bluesy number that actually did not set the tone for the rest of his set at all (although it did prefigure Sugar and the Hi-Lows!). After that one was out of the way, his set swung between cheery, low-key, beachy numbers and uptempo 80s-inflected pop, with one important exception: he covered “This Land is Your Land,” and you might be thinking “who covers that? Is this a campaign rally?” but you are wrong, he had this whole minor-key thing going that imbued it with so much sarcasm and grim truth that it was perfect. It would have been pretty tone-deaf to sing it straight at a time like this, when the truth of just whose land this land is is being brought to the forefront, so I appreciated this take on it a great deal.

When Sugar and the Hi-Lows took the stage, the very first thing that happened was that Amy Stroup was holding her tambourine all weirdly horizontal, and it was super noticeable, and by the end of the first song we knew why: she hit it, and it was full of glitter, and there was a glitter explosion all over the stage. YES. If you don’t know how I feel about glitter explosions all over the stage, you don’t know what I do for kicks. Side note, this particular glitter explosion/glitter snort won Boston this year.

Their songs are all over town in terms of sound. From country crooners to the fancied-up party vibe of the title track off their new album, “High Roller,” making all stops in between, they kept the crowd hopping except when they slowed us right down. But a highlight was a cover of “Jackson,” which, to be fair, I am nearly always on board with. But theirs was particularly good. Also, I can only expect good things out of a band with a song called “2 Day High.”

I would like to let the band know that when there is a dramatic pause in the middle of a song, as in “I Think I Said Too Much,” that is a perfect time for what The Guilloteenagers have coined as a “beer solo.” You can do it with any drink of your choice; you just spend that pause taking a healthy swig of your hooch. Just think about it, is all I’m saying.

You can pick up the new album, High Roller, right here.

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