The Sweater Set - This DC duo plays almost as many instruments as the Incredible String Band, although there is nothing quite that exotic. We have acoustic guitar, banjo, ukulele, accordion, flute, finger cymbals, and kazoos. All that being said, the real key is the twin female vocals that exude a sharp delivery with some superb harmonies. There is always a playful yet intense spirit to these songs with enough creativity to keep the interest high among this extremely large house. The only downside was the sound. At first I thought it was due to the band struggling with a pickup (that was part of it), but ultimately there was a disconnect between monitors and PA and some real feedback issues. This continued to lesser degrees during the remaining sets and there was someone new on the soundboard tonight. But as for the Sweater Set? Most acoustic fans should have a lot of fun at one of their next shows.
Luray - A debut set from a California import who expanded her vocal and banjo sound with a couple of fine musicians on keyboards/guitar/harmonies and stand-up bass. Instantly, I am impressed with the instrumental choices and arrangements. The bowed bass and keyboards provide a deep nearly psychedelic drone in the manner of a John Cale arrangement (Think Nico, but only the background). They play around with different sounds, but there is always something cool going on. As for the banjo, that is also a fine sound as it is used in a subtle folk manner and does not veer too much toward Americana. Even the bluegrass song has more subtle nuance to it than you would expect. The songs are solid singer songwriter outings and the vocal work is clean and clear, and not as exotic as the music. Great start for this band and a very appreciative nearly packed house really dug the proceedings.
Ms. Fridrich - Ms. Fridrich is the singer-pianist songwriter who takes the lead here, but the drummer also carves out important space for this duo. They occasionally employ some harmony singers, although their impact is rather minor. Instead, the assertive lead vocals are the key as they exude more of a folk-rock sensibility with a touch of jazz. There are some jazz rock moves in the way the piano and drums seem to weave intricate patterns. It's not so much in any sort of soloing showcase, but more of a pulsating rhythm. During some songs, I would have liked to hear another instrument, but then there were others where these two seemed so locked in, it may have made it worse. But I will leave those decisions to them, and say that they did a fine job tonight and concluded one of the best attended Velvet Lounge shows I have seen in a while (especially for a Wednesday).
Quote of the Night: From the two Sweater Set singers - "...was upset with me for wearing a strapless dress because she thought we looked like bridesmaids. Do we look like bridesmaids?"
"Thanks for making me feel weird."