When you see a band kill it, you know they’ve killed it. Everyone in the audience knows they’ve killed it and everyone wants to tell everyone else that the band killed it. Last night’s Wye Oak show at Black Cat is an example of one of these shows.
Despite still “checking” their sound for some new songs, as singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner described it, the duo threw down. Every single song was tight, and elements of the songs were rarely lost in the sheer volume the band was putting out.
I admit that I am not familiar with the songs from The Knot and the My Neighbor/My Creator EP, but I’ve been listening to Civilian non-stop since I got it, and it has some of the finest songs I’ve listened to this year.
The one thing that struck me during Wye Oak’s performance was just the volume. I’ve been to plenty of “loud” shows recently, but none were that intense, in-your-face, turn-the-volume-up-to-11 shows. Some of this might have had to do with ending up over in front of the speaker by the time Wye Oak went on, but I like to think of it as just the full effect of Wye Oak’s sound.
While she said she was sick, Wasner was flawless in her vocals, and was only overpowered by the instrumental sound once or twice, something that I’ve seen happen frequently at some of the shows I’ve been to. Drummer/multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack was spot on with his arrangements, and it’s just really cool to watch someone play drums and keyboard at the same time.
But the songs. The band gave away “Holy Holy,” my favorite track from Civilian, second, and I was immediately in awe. To hear a song that has that full of a sound live, replicating everything on the album is one of the coolest experiences ever. With family and friends in the audience, Wasner and Stack were having fun, extending pauses in songs, and just shredding the night away. While the D.C. crowd didn’t dance as much as it could have, “Dog’s Eyes” is actually a fantastic dancing song with its catchy arpeggios. One of the final highlights was the title track, “Civilian,” which Wasner just wails on. The only way to describe it is as “so good.”
It was a cool close-to-homecoming for Wye Oak (the actual homecoming is April 16 in Baltimore), and they showed the fruits of their hard labors and why they are a band to watch. Civilian is one of my favorite records on the year and needs to be picked up by everyone, as it helps to showcase Baltimore’s insane musical diversity, something I talked to Wasner about for The Diamondback a little over a week ago.
Before Wye Oak melted faces, fellow Baltimore bands Lower Dens and Lands & Peoples played through their sets, showcasing improvement and the ability to play in different spaces.
This was my third time seeing Lower Dens on the year, and it was the third different environment I’d seen the Jana Hunter-led quartet in, after seeing performances at the Kennedy Center in January and Subterranean A in February. It’s a close race with Kennedy Center, but I would have to say that last night was the best performance of the three I had seen. The songs from Twin-Hand Movement are just pure, and the new tracks that are coming in sound pretty solid as well.
I saw Lands & Peoples open for Real Estate and Kurt Vile over the summer and enjoyed them, but wasn’t taken by anything in particular that they played. Last night they put on a really great set, despite the constant murmur of audience conversation that was going on underneath their music. The harmonies they put together were pretty, and the space that was being left in the music was very Grizzly Bear-esque. They announced that their new full-length should be coming out soon, something that is definitely worth getting picked up.
Overall, it was a fantastic night of Baltimore music in D.C., as three bands that are on the rise showed their chops to a crowd that was eager as anything for it.