The Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums are a rare combination of vocals and percussion. Mariam Wallentin sings and plays percussion (including a steel pan, usually associated with Caribbean music), while her husband, Andreas Werlin, plays a standard drum kit. Beyond the percussion, the band’s musical instruments are pretty minimal. The effect is almost like hearing a cappella music with a beat. For their show Tuesday night (June 7) at the Empty Bottle, Wildbirds & Peacedrums had a third touring musician, who played organ-like chords on keyboards, to flesh out the sound a bit, but Wallentin’s strong, evocative voice and Werlin’s inventive rhythms were still the focus. The band’s songs find an interesting balancing point between accessible ballads of the sort one could imagine getting radio airplay and more daring experimentation.
It’s a shame that the concert was sparsely attended, but the 40 or so fans who did turn out responded with some highly enthusiastic applause. At a couple of points, Wallentin walked out to the edge of the stage and sang without amplification, her powerful voice carrying across the room. In the ovation that followed, I could sense a common experience in the small but appreciative, the recognition that we’d just witnessed something beautiful and unusual.