Rooftop Vigilantes return, with Suzannah Johannes and Fourth of July, last night at the Replay

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“Here’s to school!” said Rooftop Vigilante Zach Campbell.
Silence from the crowd.
“Here’s to prescription amphetamines!”
Cheers from the crowd.

Everyone’s homework had apparently been burned through early last night. The show at the Replay was a giddy homecoming for the Vigilantes. It was about a year since the band last played — long after 2009’s Real Pony Glue (their second LP) sank into label limbo. But they returned last night and realigned their new stuff to a full Replay bar of welcome and approval. Seemingly soberer, the new work sounds scraped clean of slack and static, cut instead with hooks of brittle harmonies and sleight-of-hand time-changes.

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It’s like the Vigilantes have been retailored, had the swagger beaten out of them. The sound had bright, unsoiled treble that underpinned the weight of Hannah Hyde’s soggy organ and Seth Wiese’s flat, throbbing snare. Wiese’s kick actually burst through his bass drum with a few songs left, which allowed the Vigilantes to play, “the longest we ever played one song,” which was about four minutes. A new drum was unzipped, and they closed with two more flashy digs — one shaggy, one chic.

Suzannah Johannes was also resurfacing from almost a year without shows, and she and Steve Swyers killed us softly. She played a few songs from her 2008 S/T EP, and she dug up two breathy, heart-melting covers: Heart’s “Crazy on You,” and one from British invasion chart-toppers the Troggs: “A Girl Like You.” (Video below.)

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Fourth of July closed the night with a set of songs largely from its upcoming third LP. The band’s songs have a certain consistency, always brimming with the unapologetic grit-faced toil of a heart-broken laborer. And it always seems to root the band further down into the Lawrence turf. Whether Brendan Hangauer is singing about the women he lost to Berlin, New York, California or himself, the songs land where Hangauer belongs — resigned, weathered, and nowhere else but home, getting “Happy Birthday” sung to him by a special woman and most of the crowd.

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