Ingrid Michaelson With Sugar and the Hi-Lows - Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale - October 16
Photo by Betsey J. Denberg

Ingrid Michaelson With Sugar and the Hi-Lows - Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale - October 16

Better than: Staying in and watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Thanks to hit songs such as "Be OK," "You and I," and the newly released "Blood Brothers," Ingrid Michaelson has made her way into our homes and hearts with her signature ukulele-infused indie-pop sounds. Last night, the charming and surprisingly sassy Ingrid Michealson brought her fall acoustic tour to the Culture Room.

See also:

- Sugar and the Hi Lows' Trent Dabbs on Nashville: "You Can Throw a Rock and Hit Someone Who Wrote Your Favorite Song."
- Five Music Icon Makeovers in Ingrid Michaelson's "Blood Brothers" Video

Opening last night's show was the Nashville based duo Sugar and the Hi-Lows. Composed of singer/songwriters Amy Stroup and Trent Dabbs, the pair has found a way to marry the worlds of indie music to bluesy rock without it sounding gimmicky.

Needing no introduction, the Hi-Lows arrived onstage and immediately kicked the set off with "Two Day High." Wasting no time, the duo kept the energy up with the rock 'n' roll-influenced track "See It for Yourself" in which Amy Stroup busted out a glitter-filled tambourine. There was definitely a few "Ohhhs" and "Ahhhs" heard from the audience as if they had seen fireworks go off.

"We have so much Fort Lauderdale love. I rode a bike to the ocean today and jumped in with all my clothes on. You can't do that in Nashville." said Amy.

After playing a few tracks off their self-titled album, and a brilliant cover of the Lumineers, "Hey Ho," Stroup plugged in a tiny little Christmas tree at the foot of the stage. Spreading the holiday cheer before Halloween could've felt off, but it was only fitting as the band has just released a Christmas album. 

Throughout the set, Amy Stroup spewed out a few comedic one liners, but guitarist and sometimes kick drummer Trent Dabbs is clearly the more talkative half of the duo. Or at least he was last night. Sharing stories about their songs and asking the audience to jokingly indulge in his idiotic antics, Dabbs isn't afraid to interact with the crowd. And together, the Hi-Lows bring the show's atmosphere to a more intimate level.

"This concludes the heavy mellow portion of the show." laughed Trent. 

Toward the end of the set, the duo performed "Odds of Being Alone," the first song they wrote together, which ended up on the popular television show, Parenthood. Followed by the duo's rendition of the Black Keys' "Everlasting Light," the Hi-Lows closed the performance with the crowd participatory "Think I Said Too Much."

After waiting just around an hour in between sets, Ingrid Michaelson finally took the stage. Surrounded by candles, and backed by a group of musicians, Michaelson started things off with "Palm of Your Hand", a release off her new album, Human Again. Moving in between playing the piano, ukulele, and guitar, Michaelson explained that she was trying something different on her Fall tour. Labeled as her acoustic tour, Michaelson decided it was time to strip down the songs, and get back to the basics of where each one was born. This allowed for more in the moment creativity, providing for a new experience each night for both the musicians on stage and the audience surrounding them.

Following such songs as "Soldier", "Men of Snow",  and a haunting slowed-down version of "Parachute", her back-up musicians left the stage. Michaelson isn't like most performers, she doesn't just play one song after another interjecting a line or two, or shouting out predictable lines like "How are you feeling tonight, Fort Lauderdale?".

Instead, she breaks the barrier that is often in place between what is happening on stage and the audience down below. A storyteller in the most raw sense, Michaelson explains her songs, or tells a story about what she was going through during the writing process. Albeit goofy and self-deprecating at times, it's at these moments in her set that provide for the audience to connect with Michaelson on a deeper level than what most musicians allow.

"The next song, well when I describe it, it sounds kind of cheesy. Like I'm about to play 'We are the World' or something." says Michaelson who then plays a few lines of the aforementioned song. "The song I wrote is like love the neighbor and all that nice stuff. I'm just going to play it."

Michaelson brought openers Sugar and the Hi-Lows back on stage to join her on crowd pleaser, "Blood Brothers." But, before actually playing the song, Michaelson had a go with singer Amy Stroup about how the length -- or rather lack of -- on the shorts that she's wearing to the tune of "We are the World".

Prior to playing "The Way I Am", Michaelson went on an amusing rant about how this track was supposed to bring her a knight in shining armor, but ended up being everyone else's wedding song. Mid-sentence, she was interrupted by a female audience member who yelled, "Just sing already." Many might have reacted in a different way, but Michaelson simply asked the room to stop booing so she could ask the girl personally if she was talking too much. Without hesitation or embarrassment, the girl replied with a simple, "Yes". Luckily, this didn't hinder Michaelson's talkative ways or her performance in the slightest as she continued on with the rest of the show. In fact, Michaelson ended up throwing in a few jabs at her throughout the set.

Comedic throughout, but never missing a beat, Ingrid Michaelson delivered a healthy portion of "golden oldies" as she called them, mixed in with newer singles during the last night's performance. And it almost goes without saying that she left no room for disappointment in any of her fans in attendance. Well, except for the angry fan, but she doesn't count anyway.

Critic's Notebook

The crowd: Lots and lots of ladies, a very angry girl who didn't want Ingrid to talk in between songs, and some very chatty folks who eventually got yelled at by the surrounding audience.

Personal bias: I want to learn how to play the ukulele.

Shout out from the crowd: "You are a sexy bitch."

Random detail: Culture Room doesn't allow smoking inside anymore. This is awesome.

Random detail #2: Before and in between the sets the music playing must've been on a mix CD entitled, Lady Jamz because the same songs kept coming on.

Pet peeve: Talking while there is a musician on stage, especially when it's a solo artist. This isn't a restaurant, you're being rude to the folks who paid to enjoy the show and the performer on stage.


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