By Clif Rhodes
I am no music historian, but in my mind there was a point in time where rock, funk, soul and blues all converged to make a new type of sound. Artists like Led Zeppelin, Cream, and even the Beatles all used this mix of these sounds to make some of what are considered the greatest albums of all time. For me this is what makes Stop Light Observations such an amazing act to watch. They seamlessly blend rock with funk and sprinkle in some blues for good measure. All of those elements combined with lead singer Will Blackburn’s incredible vocal range come together to create a phenomenal sound.
Stop Light Observations is a self proclaimed anti-pop/not rock (but also isn’t not rock) band consisting of Will Blackburn (vocals), Noah Jones (keys), Will Mahoney (guitar), Cam Westcott (bass), and Oleg Terentiev (drums).
It was a beautiful Friday evening at Windjammer. The two story venue, located right on the beach in Isle of Palm South Carolina, offers a laid back beach vibe and draws in some major talent. The stage is located right on the beach, and from the right angle you can see the ocean right behind the band. The crowd lined up down the main street of the island, ready for some fun in the sun and some amazing music. The sands in front of the stage became a sea of people as the sold out crowd funneled into the venue.
Stop Light Observations started right as the sun was going down, with the golden light perfectly timed for their opening song. “Good to U” starts off like a modern coming of age do-op song. Subtle guitar picking, leading to Will’s soulful voice, and punctuated by crisp synth. They quickly hit the throttle when they kicked off their next jam, “How Do U Feel”, an incredibly funky and futuristically groovy song. Noah Jones lays down a catchy keyboard jaunt that’s highlighted by hard hitting bass.
SLO’s blues roots were put on display when they performed their song “For Elizabeth”. A song with dirty down south guitar riff, thumping drums, and Will’s gruff bluesy delivery. This one had the crowd completely erupt at the final guitar solo of the song. SLO’s lead guitarist Will Mahoney took to the front of the stage and obliterated.
Giving the crowd a bit of a break from rocking. Stop Light Observations switched gears and slowed it down a bit with tracks like “bLUE”. A slow and thoughtful song about existing in a world without someone you love. The bass drives the song, as the keyboard paints a melancholy rhythm, under Will’s melodic pain filled lyrics. SLO continued with the song “Dinosaur Bones”, a personal favorite of mine, a song about loss, loneliness, and putting on a façade.
After a few slower songs, Will’s assured the crowd they were about to “fuck shit up”. They continued with their new single “Let Me Go”. A summertime bop, with elements of a modern day “low rider”. Will shows off his talents again, laying down a vocal track akin to Justin Timberlake on a Timbaland track. This track brought the band back into a more playful mood. Moving around the stage with one another, and giving the crowd a show.
Stop Light siphoned that energy into the next few songs. The sold out crowd was energized and dancing, kicking up sand with drinks in their hands. Stop Light performed their song, “smooth little operator”, a song so funky that you’d swear James Brown himself was gonna walk out on stage. Cam Westcott really takes the bass on a walk in this one. The audience was whipped into a further frenzy when SLO performed “Aquarius Apocalyptic”, a song that rocks, and rocks hard. “Aquarius Apocalyptic” has a western style intro that gives you the feel of high noon. It draws you in with wild lyrics, delivered in an almost spoken word style cadence, and then beats you over the head with hard hitting riffs and drums. They also used this opportunity to mess with the crowd a bit. During the build up to one of their well known guitar solos, they would stop the music and ask the crowd a question. Hilariously building the anticipation to the final payoff. Will Mahoney forced his guitar to wail and scream in an oh-so-satisfying climax. They closed out with yet another funky tune. “ 2 young” is impossible not to dance to. Another show case as to what makes this band so unique. This song truly showcases a lot of the sounds Stop Light has expertly blended. The lyrics are darkly comic, and powerfully delivered. The music is irresistible and catchy. Noah makes the keys dance on this one, Cam brings the crunchy bass, and Oleg melds it together with a hip hop beat.
When the band returned to the stage to the ear piercing chant of “encore” they gave the Windjammer crowd a special treat. They performed Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. A song that was perfectly fitting to each member’s talents. I have seen several bands cover Zeppelin, and Stop Light’s was one of the best. Delivering a performance that Robert, Jimmy, John, and Bonzo would all be proud of.
Stop Light Observations are currently on tour and I highly recommend getting to one of their shows. They showed up ready to have fun and it translated immediately to the crowd. These guys know how to put on a show.