Thursday, September 30, 2010 at Garfield Artworks
Okay, I'm getting a bit behind on some live show reviews, so it's time to catch up. I actually didn't know much about these bands going into the show, but the guys at Draw Us Lines had been repping them pretty hard lately, and the song or two I'd listened to on those posts were all well and good, so I figured I'd check it out. Glad I did.
I showed up at the Artworks a little late, having just grabbed some pizza and beer at Graziano's down the street a ways. I walked in to find rows of chairs set up and one guy standing in front of the usual stage area strumming a guitar and singing and fiddling with a little electronics box with a handful of wires. That went on for a while. Agaglady was really not for me; let's say that. I typically think that there's always some element of good in any music, and part of the appeal is trying to identify what that is and how much of it shines through the other shit, but god damn sometimes it's hard to do that. I'll admit that I liked this guy's earnestness and devotion to his "craft" and he seemed pretty adept with whatever that little electronics box was, but other than that I was struggling to enjoy it. It was mostly his voice, I guess; some of the little electronic melodies were decent and nonstandardly catchy, but it didn't come together nicely with the other elements. Oh well, can't win 'em all, you know?
Next up was Strand of Oaks, which is actually just one guy (Tim Showalter) playing guitar and singing, and boy does he do both of those things well. The string-plucking style was pretty new to me: he kinda used all of his fingers to strum an assortment of strings with one chord set and then used the amp to make this into a kind of beautiful sound cloud from which his soulful voice emerges like a ray of sunshine after a thunderstorm. Yeah, something poetic like that. It was seriously mesmerizing to watch. The day after the show, I went ahead and downloaded his album, Pope Killdragon (exclusive to eMusic, actually), and it sounds different. There are some synthesized sounds and vocal effects and the guitar is more "strummy" but it's also great. I just think that the blanket of melancholy and gravitas that his songs exude was more evident in the live setting. I could see his face contort into almost pained expressions when he belted out some lyrics and did that thing where you lean your head back from the mic a little bit because otherwise you'll drown out the guitar melody you were already playing . . . Check out the video below I took at the show of Strand of Oaks playing "Alex Kona" from that album, and then compare it to the album version. It's slightly different, yeah? But they're both good, yeah? Yeah.
Breathe Owl Breathe capped the evening with an awesome set of what eMusic calls "gentle, lovely folk, nursery rhymes for grown-ups". That's not totally accurate, but it's pretty darn close. The first song they played involved a story about a wolf, and they donned a hat with a puppet wolf on top. (Check out some great photos of that and more from the show here.) A later song began with an audience sing-along of nonsense-lyrics/sounds and then became a saga about a dragon (a draga, if you will?). Singer/guitarist Micah made some interesting vocal effects and whistles with two different mics and did lots of funny hand gestures and dancing, Andrea switched between cello and tambourine and banjo and sang a lot, and Trevor did some great expressive drumming that meshed perfectly with this style of song. Not only are these three people just flat-out talented musicians, they put on an engaging live show that's fun, beautiful, and unique. See them if you can.