Raleigh-based Heads Up Penny drove west to hit up Sugar Creek Brewery last weekend, this time taking advantage of the outdoor patio and pleasant weather to entertain the crowd with a mélange of covers and HUP’s own originals. The band, who I last saw earlier this year, now has a fuller sound with the addition of Rob, a digitally gifted music teacher, on keys.
Rushton Loring’s vocals sailed through the spring air like a uninhibited youth on a skateboard. At times, he sounded like Robin Thicke (before the over sized foam finger and artistic decline). Rushton is a vocalist who has mastered the emotional range so sublimely, I shudder to think of the demons he has slain, but I am grateful that he has honed his voice and is nice enough to share it with those who will listen.
The quintessentially cool bassist, Patrick Shaw wore his sunglasses well after sunset. As the band played their tune “Rabbit’s Got the Gun,” Rob smeared on the funk and Rushton bore his soul. The band came back from a beer break with “Ignition,” and the crowd broke into song. The guys put the bounce in the ‘bounce bounce bounce’ part.
While darkness encroached on the band’s spot at the top of the brewery’s loading ramp, the colored lights to their left threw shadows onto the side of the building. Music, sweet music illuminated the senses of all in attendance. Pushing the limits of sonic emotion, “Pastor’s Daughter” threatened to form cracks in the concrete ramp separating the band, elevated, from the simple mortals below clutching their IPAs and Raspberry White Ales.
During “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” Mitchell played his solo for no one but himself; his figure standing out from the crimson light thrown onto brewery’s wall to his right. (Isn’t it fantastic when the universe puts on a beret and plays artist?) Rushton rasped the final chorus with such unequivocal expression it could be encased in Plexiglas and put on display. When they played “I’ve Been Waiting on You,” the fun sound was enhanced by Rob’s presence. The keyboard part added a dreamlike layer to the tune, one which made me think of cotton candy and mathematics.
There are few things that make me wish I lived closer to Raleigh. Actually, there’s only one, and that’s Heads Up Penny. Check out Winnebago Soul, released last month. If you are lucky enough to see them live, they have dates set across North Carolina through September.