The new Lincoln Hall music venue has sold out some shows in its first couple of weeks, but on Thursday (Oct. 29) it was one of those rather chilled-out evenings with a small crowd of music fans standing around the main floor while three performers delivered their songs unadorned and intimate.
First up was the Baltimore duo Wye Oak, who have released two records on the Merge label, including this year’s The Knot. Jenn Wasner sang and played guitar, belting out some strong notes and shaking her hair with abandon whenever it was time for a solo. Andy Stack isn’t singing as much as he did on the first Wye Oak record, but he pulled off the impressive feat of playing the drums and keyboards at the same time. As much as I liked the Wye Oak performance, I wonder if they could accomplish more with a couple of other musicians to provide more variety and color to their arrangements. Still, it was fairly catchy rock music.
The middle act in the lineup was Julie Doiron, who was in an extremely chatty mood as she played her music solo, taking lots of requests from the audience, basically playing whatever her fans wanted to hear. Doiron’s stage banter was pretty funny, and she seemed to be in a “don’t know when to stop talking” mood. Her songs sounded more fragile than they did when she played with a full band at the Empty Bottle earlier this year, but Doiron still knew how to rock even when she was just playing by herself. What a charming, honest performer.
The headliners were Herman Dune (or Düne), a duo from France whose music is sometimes labeled “anti-folk” … another one of those genre labels I can’t really figure out. The members of this duo call themselves David-Ivar Herman Düne (guitars and vocals) and Néman Herman Düne (drums). I had not heard much of Herman Dune’s music before seeing this show, and I was initially a bit put off by David-Ivar’s vocals, especially at the moments when he does funny, falsetto things with it. But over the course of this concert, I warmed up to their music. There was a plainspoken quality to the music, and at times, the chords had that classic Velvet Underground sound. Reminded me a bit of Smog (Bill Callahan).
Photos of Herman Dune, Julie Doiron and Wye Oak.
That headline above this blog post is one that I didn’t expect to write. New Brunswick singer-songwriter Julie Doiron has been writing and recording for quite a while now — she’s just released her eighth album, I Can Wonder What You With Your Day on Jagjaguwar — but I’ve never followed her all that closely. I’ve heard great things about her, but my impression of her was that she sings quiet, melancholy and sometimes somewhat precious indie folk rock. There is some of that sort of stuff on her new record, sing-songy, girly, campfire songs such as “The Life of Dreams” and “Glad to Be Alive.” But there are also several songs that are louder and more energetic.
That side of her music came out in full force Wednesday (June 3) at the Empty Bottle, thanks to Doiron’s engaging playing on the electric guitar, her passionate singing and the loose, Neil Young-esque vibe of her backing band. (Despite the fact that they played with a Neil Young vibe, I didn’t appreciate the guy in the crowd who kept on requesting her to do “Cortez the Killer.” Give it a rest, dude.) Doiron let things get quiet on a couple of tunes, but for the most part, it really was a rock show, and a quite good one at that. And she came off as a very nice and approachable person in her good-natured comments in between the songs.
The first band of the night was a local outfit called A Lull, who put an quite impressive set of elegant and lovely rock songs accented by trumpet and occasionally pounded into the floor with drums, drums and more drums. There were four drummers in this group (if you include the guy playing trumpet plus drums), so this is one group you can definitely throw into the “Drum Circle” school of indie rock. There was an ethereal quality to the songs reminiscent of atmospheric bands like Efterklang and Grizzly Bear. And when the songs fell into a percussive groove, it sounded pretty darn cool. So far, A Lull has released just an EP, Ice Cream Bones, but I’m eager to hear more. Check them out at www.myspace.com/alullmusic
The middle band on the bill was the Night Owl Choir. In their softer moments, they reminded me a bit of the chilled-out alt-country band Acetone. The Night Owl Choir was pretty good, showing some promise, though perhaps they could stand to add a few more colors to their musical palette.
Photos of Julie Doiron, A Lull and the Night Owl Choir.