At Hitcents Park Plaza in Bowling Green, Kentucky on Saturday, admiration and pride rose into the night (rather than just the usual assortment of red solo cups) during a celebration for hometown heros, Sleeper Agent. It was two years ago that the Los Angeles Times billed Sleeper Agent as a “band on the rise” after wowing ’em at Coachella, and that rise seems to finally be catching air. The group’s busy itinerary includes a visit to the Late Show with David Letterman this coming Wednesday.
“We’re excited to do it,” guitarist Joshua Martin said while watching fireworks with guitarist Tony Smith before the show. “Our family members are more pumped up than we are. Maybe we can be like the underdog. I’ve seen so many legends on Letterman, and what an honor to be able to do that. And for all your family and friends to associate it as a really big deal. That’s a prestigious thing. That’s an honor.”
Comprised of lead singer Alex Kandel, vocalist and guitarists Smith and Martin, keyboarder Scott Gardner, drummer Justin Wilson and bassist Lee Williams, this glimmering alternative rock act put on a mischievous, moody, yet energetic Independence Day blowout. While the crowd gawked at fireworks, band members snuck onto the stage to set up, beginning the set at 9 p.m. and continuing for two hours. A fireworks-like array of colors shot around the stage as the band stomped their feet from the get-go. They seem to have every intention to “raise some hell,” as noted in their mesmerizing, romantic, yet battle-ready opener, Be Brave, fresh from their new sophomore album, About Last Night (RCA). Throughout the smoky set, Kandel displayed an expressive, seasoned, soulful sound for her otherwise savage, 20-something self. As fog rolled in, the light show began to create a dream-like atmosphere for the packed crowd, gathered outside a minor league baseball stadium and some local restaurants nearby downtown. That fog faded in and out, revealing Kandel’s dyed-violet bangs shining under hues of lime and scarlet as she and the audience belted out the lyrics to Waves, the group’s breakout song from the latest album.
The crowd got increasingly fevered, with a few folks up on the shoulders of one another, with others choosing to stand on cement structures for a better view. Martin danced around in circles, his guitar flipping with him, while a smiling, head-bobbing Wilson wailed away on the drums. Get Burned, from their debut album, Celebrasion, was hotter than the seasonally cool evening, as were Smith’s flagrant glances at Kandel. The American flag pants-festooned Gardner was all over his keyboard and went head to head with Martin as he played his guitar behind his neck. The tunes were catchy, the beats simple, but the band’s overall stage presence was riveting, even given that this was a homer crowd, peppered with family and friends. During the band’s last song, Kandel jumped off stage in her combat boots, and took the mic to fans in the front row, shooting searing glances while letting the fans make the noise. It was total normal rock stuff, but still magical on a night like this.
Photos and words by Natasha Simmons.