Letters to Cleo on the Hill

By Kory Wilcoxon

I couldn't believe it! The Beatles were finally getting back together on Friday, April 1, and Louisville Music News wanted me to cover it! Of course, I should have suspected in was an April Fool's joke when they told me the monumental show was in the Roof Garden of Phoenix Hill Tavern.

The Fab Four didn't put in an appearance but I did catch a band called Letters to Cleo. Granted, they don't have the name recognition (or the haircuts) of the boys from Liverpool, but they did put in a game set, especially considering their circumstances.

The band, which hails from Bah-ston, Mass., was on the last stop of a month-long tour of the East Coast, Southwest and Midwest. That long on the road can make a band bone-tired, and Letters to Cleo exhibited symptoms of Tour-itis. A few numbers were a little listless and the band as a whole seemed to be less than up to the task.

But who can blame them, playing to a sparse and mainly non-appreciative crowd? For the record, I clapped after every song. I know, because I heard it echoing.

Musically, Letters to Cleo is an alterna-pop band that gets compared so much to Juliana Hatfield "it's almost ridiculous," said lead singer Kay Hanley. Never having heard Juliana and her Three, I can neither validate nor dispute that claim, but if it sounds anything like Letters to Cleo, it would be worth the ducats.

Cleo's songs rely on bouncy energy to get the musical message across, and on the songs that needed it most the band came through. "Here and Now," the catchiest tune from their album Aurora Gory Alice, translated well to the stage, fueled by Michael Eisenstein's punchy guitars. The second catchiest tune, "I See," was also guttily delivered, but suffered from the understandable exhaustion. It would have been better luck to catch Letters to Cleo a week or so into their tour rather than on the last night, when undoubtedly their minds were more on the road to Beantown than their music.

photos by paul moffett

Above, Letters to Cleo lead singer Chris Hanley and guitarist Greg McKenna. Left, Louisville native Price Jones, who shared the bill.