When Morning Brigade opened Cat's Cradle's "Handle With Care" benefit show of George Harrison covers a couple weeks ago with "I'd Have You Anytime," the lead track from Harrison's 1970 debut album All Things Must Pass, it was an auspicious beginning to what unfolded into a terrific evening. But even after a half-dozen other acts had taken the stage before the end of the night, no one had brought more unbridled joy for Harrison's songs to the stage than this sextet—which is impressive given that these folks were still a good 20 years from being born when Harrison's solo career began.
A troupe of UNC students that formed a couple of years ago, Morning Brigade expanded during the past year into its current lineup. Lead singer and guitarist Peter Vance is bolstered by tasteful string support from cellist Christian Adams and violinist Eli Howells, with Nathan Spain keeping a lively tempo on drums. Much of the magic comes from the harmonies Vance weaves with keyboardist Gabriel Reynolds and percussionist Mary Koenig, who plays up-front alongside Vance and helps give the band an engaging stage presence.
While covers are apparently among their specialties—the day after the Harrison show, they took part in a '90s Night at another Chapel Hill venue and rendered choice tunes by the likes of The Verve, Weezer and Sixpence None the Richer—on Sunday they celebrate the release of their first album of their own material. An initial listen to Above Our Heads finds a young band still shaping its identity but carrying loads of potential, most fully realized on songs such as "Rough Patch," which begins with elegant string and piano touches before bursting into a radiant full-band bloom. Moneybox and Joshua Taylor open the 9 p.m. show. —Peter Blackstock