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Night Terrors of 1927 … or perhaps 1983

Peter Blackstock
pblackstock@statesman.com

Of the two former Rilo Kiley acts at ACL Fest this year, Jenny Lewis has been getting most of the attention: In addition to fairly enviable 5 p.m. time slots on Sunday of both weekends, she also taped an episode of the “Austin City Limits” TV show last week. Meanwhile, slotted in the tough 11:30 a.m. Friday slot was Night Terrors of 1927, a new band that includes former Rilo Kiley co-leader Blake Sennett.

In a brief but auspicious 40-minute set on the RetailMeNot Stage to help open the fest’s second weekend, Sennett and his four bandmates proved to be an engaging and quite tuneful ensemble. It’s really primarily a vehicle for the dramatic vocal presence of Jarrod Gorbel, formerly of The Honorary Title. Supported by Sennett, a drummer, and two women at stage left on keyboards and bass, Gorbel belted out original tunes such as “Dust and Bones” and “When You Were Mine” with a distinctive style that recalled the early-’80s heyday of New Wave.

It was no surprise, then, when they went into the Romantics’ memorable 1984 hit “Talking in Your Sleep,” a song that seemed tailor-made for Gorbel to sing. Part of their hearts clearly remain in those ’80s glory days; when Sennett announced that they’d be signing stuff over at the Waterloo Records tent after their set, he celebrated the store’s survival and said, “I still like browsing,” referring to the old-school meaning of the term.

The band closed the set with a righteously big-sounding anthem, “I’ll Always Take You Back,” in which Gorbel’s soaring vocals and theatrics reached an almost Bono-esque level. Granted, they’re not THAT big yet … but they proved to be deserving of more than a pre-noon slot as the “other” Rilo Kiley act.