Prior to the start of the set, Kianna Alarid distributed pink balloons to the fans at the front to inflate and pop. Why? Well, why not? The operative word for a Tilly and the Wall show is fun, rhyme or reason be damned. Thanks to a cacophonous blend of upbeat, sing-along harmonies and hard-hitting, unpredictable rhythms delivered with a punch-the-heavens enthusiasm, it was a challenge to find any reason not to have one’s life affirmed. Taking their name from Leo Lionni’s children’s tome, the hyper-kinetic quintet brought a like-minded sensation of youthful wonder to Los Angeles’ Echoplex for a one-off headlining show during their current tour in support of She & Him.
Tilly and the Wall put on one of the most rhythmically unique live shows around thanks to their percussive side coming from the tap dancing of Jamie Pressnall rather than a drummer. It’s the kind of trait that could pigeonhole an act as a novelty, but for Tilly and the Wall it’s just another manifestation of the band’s whimsy, as are choreographed dances that threaten to seize the crown of “adorkability.” When the rest of the band greeted bassist Neely Jenkins with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” and some celebratory cupcakes, it was hard not to expect a food fight to ensue.
Their latest album, Heavy Mood, marked a shift towards a rawer, less playful sound, but at the Echoplex, the Omahan quartet were as capricious as ever. In fact, when the band visited Heavy Mood at the set’s midpoint, fight anthems “Love Riot” and the album’s title track were as seamlessly danceable as the energetic pop melodies and fancy footwork of older favorites “Beat Control” and “Pot Kettle Black”. That’s not to say the group didn’t exhibit a softer side, however. Acoustic strummer “Tall Tall Grass” was an affecting breather and when the group’s Conor Oberst connection became most apparent. Even then, Tilly and the Wall never lost sight of their spirited soul.