Hospitality and Face the Music Mesmerize at the Ecstatic Music Festival Kick-Off Concert

Nicholas Cho

Hospitality performed with Face the Music’s Pannonia String Quartet at the Greene Space in New York City.
Photo Courtesy of Matthew Septimus

Kicking off the Ecstatic Music Festival, Hospitality performed a sold-out concert at the Greene Space at WNYC/WQXR in New York City on January 31st, 2014.  For this special show, the Brooklyn-based indie pop group was joined by Face the Music’s Pannonia String Quartet to perform new and riveting renditions of Hospitality’s songs.

I first saw Hospitality two years ago at the 4Knots Music Festival when their set was notoriously interrupted by a raging fire.  However, what I remembered most from that show was the band’s noticeable momentum.  Their energy and stage presence left a mark on me that day, and I was hooked ever since.

Hospitality Singer/Guitarist Amber Papini at the Ecstatic Music Festival Kick-off Event.   Photo Courtesy of Matthew Septimus
Hospitality Singer/Guitarist Amber Papini at the Ecstatic Music Festival Kick-off Event.
Photo Courtesy of Matthew Septimus

Hospitality consists of lead singer/guitarist Amber Papini, guitarist/drummer Nathan Michel, bassist Brian Betancourt, and touring member David Christian.  This concert was the start of Hospitality’s tour in support of their new album, Trouble.  The album is the follow-up to their 2012 self-titled debut, and it finds the band expanding from the indie-pop roots of their first album into minimalistic rock tinged with keyboards.   The result is a successful extension of Hospitality’s eclectic sound that captures Papini’s dulcet voice, Michel’s driving guitar lines, and Betancourt’s melodic bass playing in an ambitious and graceful album.

The band was accompanied by Face the Music’s Pannonia String Quartet, which features Emma Ike and Sophia Steger on violin, Javen Lara on viola, and Nick Burkel on cello.  Face the Music is a teen ensemble in residence at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City that focuses on performing the works of living composers.

These two distinct musical groups were brought together by Judd Greenstein, the curator of the Ecstatic Music Festival.  He said, “The Ecstatic Music Festival is all about collaboration. The idea of the festival is that we bring together people from different sides of the musical world.”  As a result, Friday night’s show was a bridging of the musical boundaries between indie pop and classical music that resulted in a night of captivating performances.

The evening commenced with Hospitality presenting acoustic arrangements of songs from Trouble with the Pannonia String Quartet.  The band first played “Rockets and Jets,” and the addition of the string quartet drew out the image of planes flying through the sky.  Next was “Sunship,” and Papini’s ethereal voice seemed to float over the audience throughout this enchanting song about quietly escaping from the world.  “Nightingale” followed, and the serene sounds of the string quartet successfully replaced the distorted, choppy guitar lines in the original version.

The final song of the collaboration between Hospitality and the Pannonia String Quartet was “Argonauts” from Hospitality’s self-titled debut.  This song was strikingly beautiful, and it truly demonstrated the magic of this collaboration.  The Pannonia String Quartet’s pizzicato, or plucked, playing meshed with Michel’s acoustic guitar to set the calming background of this song while individual string lines bolstered Papini’s delicate singing.

Hospitality then left the stage, leaving the Pannonia String Quartet to perform Michel’s “Offshore.”  The string quartet evoked moods of serenity and mystery from this piece while showcasing each of the teens’ musical talents.  Burkel provided a strong foundation on the cello as Ike, Lara, and Steger gracefully and effortlessly played melody lines and accompanied each other during this excellently performed string quartet piece.

With the first half of the concert now over, the Pannonia String Quartet walked off the stage as Hospitality returned to perform an electric set.  The band decided to play “Nightingale” again, and this time it was much more powerful than the soothing version with the Pannonia String Quartet.

A lively buzz then filled the air as the band began to play “Friends of Friends,” a fun song that echoes back to the carelessness of youth.   Betancourt’s bass playing shined in this performance.  In all of Hospitality’s songs, his thumping bass lines do not simply add framework – they add color and are an integral element of Hospitality’s sound as a whole.

Later, the band performed “Going Out” and “Sullivan” off of Trouble, and both of these songs captured the monotony of daily life through mellow musical lines.  Finally, Hospitality played “Eighth Avenue” from their first album, ending the concert on a loud and lively note.

At last Friday’s concert, I could tell that Hospitality still had the momentum that I remembered from two years ago.  And, with a great new album, a successful collaboration with Face the Music’s Pannonia String Quartet, and an extensive US/Europe tour that has them performing at the Primavera Festival in Spain, I know that this momentum is not going to fade away.

Be on the lookout for Hospitality – I’m sure you’ll hear of them a lot soon.


Click here to see a list of Hospitality’s tour dates.