Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Garland of Hours - Fern Knight - Arborea -- Iota - May 16 2011

Arborea Wicklow Mountains, Ireland May 09.  Photo by Jay Sacker
Arborea - Between the long running tuning jokes at last night's Fleet Foxes' show (also mention in Wash. Post) and tonight's slow sound checks, especially with just two people here, I am longing for a straight-up punk rock show. Oh yeah, I tried that recently at the U Street Music Hall, but left a block and a half of fans lined-up for at least 35 minutes after the doors were supposed to open. I passed. After more delays, the soundman wanders forward and we get started. And poof! presto! voila! a little high quality music and my crabby mood has lifted. This duo immediately captured my attention and sucked me in completely for their entire set. The male half played guitar and sang a little. The female half played harmonium and various stinged instruments including an odd looking dulcimer variant. She handled most of the vocals. This was pure, classic psychedelic folk that is so refreshing in this day and age of cutesy-freak folk styled singing and playing. Their sound was akin to Shide & Acorn with a bit of Elly & Rikkert (when both sang in harmony) and her voice even reminded me of Midwinter's Jill Child. These are brilliant artists to emulate, but this duo also headed in modern psyche directions with some electric guitar work that was in the direction of maybe Charalambides before they morphed that passage into "Black is the Colour". The crowd seemed as entranced as I was and this was an extremely refreshing set for me. The only downside is that they came from Maine, so they will not be gracing DC stages as frequently as I would like.

Fern Knight - This is at least my third time seeing this collective from areas around here extending to Philadelphia. They have solidified into a six person line-up with keyboards, harp, bass, guitars, flute, violin, and female vocals. They have played with their sound incorporating folk, psyche-folk, dreamy psyche amongst others in both tight songs and playful improv. Along with Espers, they have been one of my favorites in the newer psyche-folk movement (call it whatever you like). About 30-40 people enjoyed the set tonight and there was much to enjoy. They played newer songs including a couple of brand new ones which were fun, although the last one sounded a bit like a work in progress. I particularly enjoyed a very catchy rock song that sounded like something Curved Air may have come up with (although the vocal work here was more delicate). This band continues to impress me and I will continue to be a regular at their future shows.

Garland of Hours - This three-piece had drums, an electric guitar and a singer/cellist who also played keyboards. Kudos to them for getting their set started in ten minutes, as it was getting a bit late for those needing to use the metro. The sound was not quite as dreamy folk as the previous two bands. It had a bit more guitar bite to it, but still had some intriguing psyche qualities at times. They reminded me of Rasputina, as they had the same sort of trio with just a guitar in place of one cello. Their was even a jagged Pere Ubu edge at times, but they really didn't sound like Pere Ubu, just compositionally attuned. This was an interesting set that I will probably explore further at future shows.

Quote of the Night: from Fern Knight and I paraphrase... "Could you turn down the air conditioning because there's a draft. The first song was about winter so that worked, but it would be nice to be warm." Funny, how this is the second time this club delays conditioning the air until the show begins. Ultimately it was quite comfortable here (after the ac was turned back a bit), but the early muggy night was not and it also led to tuning issues as the bands also mentioned.

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