John Pelant leads Minneapolis-based Night Moves in a performance at Metro Gallery in Baltimore on Jan. 21, 2023. (Photo by Casey Vock)
An enigmatic band can garner a great deal of intrigue around its work, whenever and however the group decides to share it.
With less time spent out in the open and more of it focused on development, even at the expense of less touring, musicians might very well put themselves in a better position to find the sound they’re looking for together.
A stimulating indie rock outfit from Minneapolis with a name that on its own conjures some mystique, Night Moves hasn’t necessarily been featured all over the music media and doesn’t seem to seek out attention — the band’s site is devoid of member names and a bio. But it’s caught the ears of quite a few listeners over the course of three studio albums and a pair of EPs spanning a little more than a decade.
Making the rare appearance in Baltimore at Metro Gallery the night of Jan. 21, Night Moves played to a sold-out, enthusiastic crowd and provided ample evidence that its work-hard-when-no-one’s-looking approach is paying off in the form of vivid, escapist arrangements that drip and strut to psychedelic effect.
Night Moves was formed in 2010 by lead singer and guitarist John Pelant, bassist Micky Alfano, and multi-instrumentalist Mark Ritsema, friends in high school who’d played in different groups in and around Minneapolis. And while they didn’t play live much, they dedicated themselves to the writing and training, honing their sound and ultimately being scooped up by Domino Records back in 2011 after releasing a free version of their premiere studio record, Colored Emotions.
Stream Night Moves’ 2022 EP, The Redaction, via Spotify:
The merch table was swarmed early in the night in Baltimore, and there was a sense of anticipation within the small venue on North Charles Street. Fans were openly sharing their eagerness to simply glimpse the group, which has seen some lineup adjustments over the years as Ritsema moved on to focus on his solo project, Suzie, and Night Moves welcomed new members on board for touring and more eventual studio work.
The band took the stage and was met by boisterous cheers. A keyboard bisected the stage, and Pelant stood to the side of it, his hair almost covering his eyes. To his left, Alfano; over to the right side was electric guitarist Charles Murlowski and in the back was Mark Hanson on drums.
The venue’s dim lights cast an appropriate atmosphere as this group began the set, starting off with “Border on Border,” one of several dreamy tracks from the 2016’s Pennied Days, an outstanding follow up to the band’s first album.
Noticeable to anyone who wasn’t familiar with the sounds of Night Moves — which reportedly is not a Bob Seger reference — would have been the way that songs like this one deep dive with a decided emotional aim and hanging right on every moment of the luscious instrumentation is Pelant’s trademark tenor.
Heading into the title track of the band’s first album, which Domino polished and rereleased in 2012, it spoke to its early vision to concoct a vintage, ethereal semblance. The crowd was more than willing to groove along to this catching, hypnotic number that saw Pelant tilt his head back and raise his voice high to give the track an infectious ardor. Exacting a deep mood with every note, Alfano displayed a shrew funkiness as the foundation builder.
“Feel Another Day,” a track on the band’s summer 2022 EP The Redaction, featured Pelant’s abiding voice at the forefront, and he showed himself to be a fantastic performer in belting out these pleading words as the song billowed and drifted, and Murlowski proved to be an incredible presence with the timing and intensity of any move he made, and his solo about halfway through this song was masterful. This brought the entire band together in a cooing harmony, with the unrelenting Hanson too giving it his all from the drumkit, a gorgeous tune from start to finish.
Watch the official music video for Night Moves’ single “Vulnerable Hours” via the band’s official YouTube channel:
“It’s nice to be in Baltimore,” John told the audience, keeping it simple. “We’re from Minneapolis — made in Minneapolis.”
John would swing from the electric to the acoustic to the keys and even used the harmonica as well, and for any attendee still searching for what might be the band’s patented sound, they’d get it in the form of a glowing, beautiful take on “Leave Your Light On” from Pennied Days. Pelant’s voice at its most affectionate, he calls out in ways that are engaging to the ear and work so well as a key component of these uncommon, well-conceived melodies.
The audience, featuring folks who bragged about seeing multiple Night Moves shows on this tour, was treated to a fanciful version of the swift, kaleidoscopic “Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry.” The room sang along from the start as the band exploded for this echoing, wildly satisfying number that successfully achieves a timeless essence, exceptionally blending rock and pop.
Perhaps one of the avenues by which new listeners might have first heard Night Moves leading up to the pandemic, “Mexico” from the 2019 album Can You Really Find Me was every bit the captivating journey that it is in its recorded from, whistling chords and Pelant’s intonation careening off one another by design.
Stream Night Moves’ 2019 studio album, Can You Really Find Me, via Spotify:
And even if it was mostly contained by the band members, it was obvious the group was riding high, clearly in its element to be playing host to such a thrilling small-club affair.
“We’re gonna party tonight,” Hanson said, turning the heads of his mates.
“We decided that?” someone asked him.
“I think so,” he smiled. “We brought it all the way.”
Another of the band’s most popular and most hallucinatory tracks, “Carl Sagan” would round out the set before the band was implored to return for an encore. Taking the stage by himself, Pelant honored several guests’ requests for “Angelina,” which he performed in stripped-down fashion before being rejoined by his squad for one more to close out the evening.
A convincing argument for the band that gets to know itself before trying to get to know everyone else, Night Moves impressed the Baltimore crowd and showed itself to be on a steady incline, offering an enduring sound and vibe that’s difficult to pin to a certain time or place.
Border on Border
Feel Another Day
Leave Your Light On
Waiting For The Symphony
Denise, Don’t Want to See You Cry
(and one more …)