Little Green Cars comes to the Old Rock House

| Staff Writer

“As long as there is someone who feels the world is closing in, being eaten up from the inside or has the outside eaten in, whose homework’s piling up, the lover who’s been stood up, the one who cares too much and yet no one cares enough, they need a song that they can to listen to. . . Ephemera means that all things must pass, and how can they not, in a world that moves so fast? And the past is like a car wreck you nearly break your neck to see, because without the past I guess the future is history.”

That was part of the original poem that Stevie Appleby, one of the lead singers of indie rock band Little Green Cars, read to the small audience gathered at the Old Rock House this past Wednesday night. The poem followed the first two songs of the band’s set, both tracks from their recently released album, “Ephemera.” As I learned from Appleby—who concluded the band’s opening song, “Party,” with the remark “first song of the tour done, guys”—it was also the first time they were performing these songs in North America. The band, often described as a cross between indie rock and folk, had flown in from Dublin, Ireland, its native city, just a few days earlier. Perhaps in celebration of the fact that St. Louis had the honor of being the first stop on their tour, the band members’ jet lag became a running joke of the show.

A poetry reading in the middle of the set felt appropriate coming from this band, whose two albums have included notable literary references. “Ephemera” is also the name of a W.B. Yeats poem that seems to deal with many of the same themes—lost love, the difficulty of moving on, what it means to grieve—that the album attends to. Another literary reference comes in the form of “Harper Lee,” one of the most successful tracks from the band’s first album, “Absolute Zero.” During Wednesday’s show, “Harper Lee”—an exuberant example of the band’s harmonizing ability—preceded “Easier Day,” a comparatively stripped-down showcase of second lead singer Faye O’Rourke’s stark, poignant voice.

Although the band is young, with all its members still in their early 20s, its sound is mature. The band’s second album, when lined up next to its first, seems older, slower and, at times, sadder. The band has called “Ephemera” an album all about transition. Since the release of its last record, members of the band have endured the pains of both heartbreak and bereavement. The live performance especially provided evidence of the personal significance each emotionally wrought song carries for the band members. By the end of “Ok Ok Ok,” the only song off the album that features O’Rourke exclusively without backup from other members of the band for harmonizing effect, the singer was shedding tears and receiving comforting words from a fan in the front row. Emotional vulnerability steadily faded, however, as the drums returned to give the beats to the defiant “I Don’t Even Know Who” and brooding “Good Women Do.” The main vocals were handed back to Appleby for “Winds of Peace,” a calm number about coming to terms with tragedy.

In spite of the emotional lows that “Ephemera” explores, the band’s members appeared anything but weighed down by their misfortunes. In fact, they took every opportunity to exhibit their strong sense of humor. They provided a preface to their “last” song, explaining that since the Old Rock House does not have a backstage or offstage area for bands to retreat to, the band planned on turning its back to the audience and waiting quietly in the dark before potentially coming back (turning around) for an encore. Needless to say, an encore was, in fact, called for. A fan in front, who turned out to be a friend the band had made during its last concert in St. Louis, was called up onstage to help sing the actual last song, “The Factory.”

The moment seemed symbolic, seeing as the band has always emphasized how it wants its fans to feel as though the songs belong to them, too. The chorus of the song, a harmony of all the singers’ voices without any instrumentals, was like a beacon of light piercing through the darkness, proving Little Green Cars’ ability to prevail over any obstacle: “Jesus, Mary, mother of God, I’m alive again; I’m alive again.”