The Sweater Set - It is a hot and crowded backstage room at the Black Cat and there is plenty of noise coming from the bar. Normally, conditions could not be worse for an acoustic folk set, but the Sweater Set took command of the stage and the audience who in turn were fully involved with this music. Two powerful voices, perfect in harmony and equally capable to lead, were the key to making this music sing. There was guitar and banjo accompaniment with a bit of percussion, glockenspiel, and accordion at times to place something delicate underneath the soaring voices. I have not seen them in over a year and this time around the sound (as well as the rapt audience) did not let them down and allowed every quiet note to come through loud and clear. They needlessly apologized for leaving DC for the promised land of Brooklyn only to return to where they are most comfortable. We are happy to have them back and any acoustic folk act that can get a whole room quiet at the Black Cat is definitely one you should be paying attention to.
Night Beds - This band is pretty much Winston Yellen who does the songwriting, singing and guitar work. He is accompanied tonight by a drummer and a steel guitarist, which is the only real problem I had with this show. Yellen has a magnificent voice and it is not a stretch to say he is in the neighborhood of the Buckleys. If not the range, he certainly shares their ability to build and recede emotions through long and strong vocal lines. The songs are balanced between pop and alt country, which fits in with his Nashville base. The drumming is solid, but the steel guitar distracts me far more than it enhances the material. I have succeeded in accepting this instrument more than I used to, but this was a step back as its cloying, wavering moves were just too prominent in the arrangements. The songs were quite good and any of the many fans of Bon Iver would easily get into Night Beds immediately. They packed the room tonight, which unfortunately made it a little hot and stuffy. The songs and the singing were still powerful enough to distract enough from that. The sincerity in the music was effective and it was easy to believe him when he said that this was one of his three favorite places to play. Yellen is a talent, but I would like to see a fuller band (or even a solo effort) next time around. That is just me, as I would guess most of this room will return to see Night Beds in any format.
Quote of the Night: Yellen... "Is it ok if I come out there and sing a song with you"
Audience - (light applause) "Yeah".
Me - "No."
Sorry to be the curmudgeon, but I would like to see the 'go into the middle of the audience and sing off microphone' to be retired.