Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Concertgoer: Wye Oak & Callers

St. Paul's Turf Club is a cool place, but not an establishment with great organizational skills. So a discrepancy between the official website and printed ticket led me to assume the show started later than it did, and for this and other reasons I missed first opener Zoo Animal. This was a let down--I've been meaning to see the group for months, having been assured that the band posses a ragged majesty. They are a rock band of practicing Christians, which is rarely a good sign. But as a Low superfan, I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Alas, the Turf Club did not give me a resaonable idea of when doors opened. Another time.

I did catch Callers, who are touring with Baltimore compatriots Wye Oak. I was distracted during Callers' set, but paid enough attention to notice that 1) they are an irritating three-piece with 2) a female vocalist who sounds like Jeff Buckley. They are not worth your time.

Then came Wye Oak, underdogs now big enough to pack a small club. Wye Oak are a duo, but they work mightily to produce one of the highest volume to band member ratios in the business. Frontwoman Jenn Wasner plays guitar and sings, while her boyfriend Andy Stack drums with most of his body, using his right hand to play bass parts and occasional keyboard on a small synth. Wasner is the driving force in Wye Oak, but Stack is the workhorse, dexterously powering the group.

And Wye Oak are powerful. Their first album--totally unrepresented at the show--balanced folk with fuzz, but showed that the group could unleash moments of overwhelming intensity. Whenever Wasner's guitar begins one of its inexorable surges, time seems to stop. Their more recent work has tended towards these sudden blasts, a sort of americana via shoegaze, but this year's Civilian moves slightly in the direction of tense atmospherics.

Live, the band mostly replicate the sounds on their records, seeming a bit more laid back in person. The moments of paralyzing noise--which draw out the frustration and longing of Wasner's lyrics--are still the most exciting. Accordingly, "For Prayer" and "Holy, Holy" were highlights. The moment on the latter when the band pause, then hit their notes at exactly the same moment and kickstaring the song's melodic rush--that's perfection to me.

The whole show wasn't that great. Wasner's vocals don't have quite the same languor on a PA, and fans of the band's first two albums probably left disappointed. But the lulls were very short. Notably, after a rant about the internet and some guy in Iowa City with a camera, Wye Oak launched into a cover of Danzig's "Mother." That song is always and forever Glenn Danzig's, but the rising intensity of Wye Oak's version sounded awesome, and is probably a good sign for folks with tickets to see the band cover Dinosaur Jr at the OBCBYL show.

The evening ended with a short encore--one quiet song, one loud one. It was a relatively short set. While there are no happy Wye Oak songs--they played both "I Hope You Die" and "Two Small Deaths"--their music is lovely to get lost in, and the amount of closed eyes, swaying bodies and banging heads at the Turf Club indicated that, finally, people are catching on.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. I've got nothing to add about Wye Oak, and the only point of contention is that I thought Callers seemed pretty good. I say "seemed" because, like you, I couldn't really hear them (shut up, people, this isn't a party!), though at one point I'm sure I heard the distant strains of a jazzified Wire cover. Interestingly they are pretty much a perfect visual replica of Zoo Animal.