A stompin’ good time

Night in the Box keep classic rock, soul, and folk alive and kickin

Try to think of great bands with vocal harmonies and it’s likely you won’t remember very many. The Beatles, The Beastie Boys and The Klaxons are just a few well-known acts that have pulled it off with great success. (Maybe we shouldn’t call what the Beastie Boys did “harmony,” but they did shout in unison.) The point is: great vocal harmonies are rare outside of church.

Such a phenomenon was last seen on a Sunday night, inside the 7th St. Entry. It came from A Night in the Box, a local old-timey-looking four-piece who played a mix of rousing, soulful and eclectic folk jams.

ANITB seem to like getting the crowd involved with a lot of songs that feature clapping or stomping. Their style could be a hint to other start-up bands: If you don’t know how to keep people interested in your weasely, ripped-off Portishead tune, add some claps or stomps and the audience might not die of boredom. Of course, ANITB doesn’t actually do it in such a contrived way; their claps and stomps are proper and useful, feeling like a collective act. Maybe this is a testament to the size of the 7th St. Entry, but ANITB had everyone going. After all, everyone hates the kind of show where half the crowd stands around not doing anything while the other half has cardiac arrest from banging their heads.

Their catchiness might have to do with the fun, down-home Southern bluegrass issuing forth from the speakers, with fiddles, harmonicas, banjos and mandolins weaving in and out of the cacophony.

One of their best songs “The Hustle” is also one of the simplest. Clayton Hagen leads the way on vocals, singing deep and breathy, with the other members – Travis Hetman, Alex Dalton and Kailyn Spencer – backing him up on vocal harmony. No instruments; only hands and feet, used to clap and stomp out the rhythm.

Hagen’s voice will remind you of a subtler, lower Bon Iver; smooth, with a holler that evokes honest emotion. The song sounds like something you would hear prisoners singing on a 1920s chain gang, only it’s not a joke; it’s authentic.

For their second album, “Write a Letter,” released late last month, fiddle player Kailyn Spencer had more of a hand in songwriting. Some of the songs on the new album come off as hard punk jams – “The Rich Man’s Table,” for example, with its crunchy guitars and Beastie Boys-style shout-the-last-word choruses. Other songs like “The Legend of Kevin Mitch” show off Spencer’s talent with frenetic up-beat drums to match her Tetris-style plucked fiddle.

When you listen to them, you’ll no doubt feel like you’ve heard it all before; ANITB does an excellent job of digging up classic sounds and recreating them, but it sounds genuine, with hints of Johnny Cash and early Elvis. You might even think of the Charlie Daniels Band.