Brice Randall Bickford - Big lineups tonight on the smaller backstage at the Black Cat. Bickford plays guitar and sings and is joined by cello, violin, bass, keyboards and drums from what I can see through the not so surprisingly dense crowd tonight. The first song has a nice Byrdsian guitar with spacey punctuation of keyboards and pulsating strings atop a steady flowing rhythm. It is gentle in the whole, but with a steady sense of movement. Bickford's voice is rich and assured in a Amos Lee-James Taylor manner? I am reaching, but it is the focal point of this fine music. The rest of the set has a classic singer-songwriter style with moves into folkier Americana and some more lightly moving rock music. Especially impressive as this was his first show, although a quick bit of research shows that this is his first show with this lineup as he has had some previous recordings. No surprise there, as this was a mature, well received set by a talented singer-songwriter.
Lost in the Trees - I last saw this band open for Junip late last year and they did a wonderful job that night. They return with a line-up similar to what Bickford had. The bass player played some tuba and the woman doing back-up vocals had an accordion which I heard but did not see as the crowd had packed the room by this time. Ari Picker is the fulcrum for the band with his acoustic guitar and distinctive high pitch and highly emotive singing. The guitar sound is excellent as it emits an acoustic sound at the striking point, but has a great fuzz treatment as well. The string players are first rate and play with a real flourish that is not often seen in most violinists and cellists in indie rock. The rhythms are good and the backing vocals are only a bit south of Lisa Gerrard in terms of gothic splendor. The songwriting is getting better and better with some of the newer material debuted here standing out well along with some crowd favorites. I think their songs compare well enough to some of the finer original artists in this area like the Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens. Like those artists, it is the arrangements that bring them to an even higher level. Maybe it is the classical music fan in me that has me enjoying this so much, but ultimately it is the combination of quality and heart that makes this music successful and far reaching. They did their usual final number unplugged out in the middle of the crowd which worked out better than when I saw this done in the larger room. The crowd was appreciative of this, but clearly loved the whole set from start to finish. But don't take my word for it, as Bob Boilen and NPR were here to broadcast it to the world.
Quote of the Night: From Lost in the Trees... "We really love playing here, as we were upstairs the last two times. It's nice to be so close." Well, enjoy it tonight, because it is the last time you will be playing a stage this small in DC. You will be headlining larger stages here and a lot of places around the world.