North of the Dial

Usually a "buzzkill" is the last thing a musician wants during a performance.

But by the time a fan hopped on the stage at Dan's Silverleaf on Saturday, June 7, to hold Daniel Folmer's guitar connection and hopefully suppress the loud 60-cycle hum that had plagued the first half of the show, Folmer was ready to try anything.

The talented singer-songwriter soldiered on, for a moment even attempting a pure acoustic performance sans amplification. But he eventually regained control of both the PA and the crowd. "Seratonin," from last year's Gloria is as close to being a "standard" as any song can be in a fledgling, two-year old career, and it was that tune that seemingly allowed Folmer to shrug off the technical frustrations and bring the set home with confidence.

The follow-up act, Florene, performed 40 minutes or so of their ambient electronica. The highlight was "Someone Like Leah," with Gavin Guthrie's Lanois-eque guitar suggesting a winsome bit of melody as Aaron Mollet's processed sounds and vocalizations played against the idea and added texture. But "Leah" also highlighted what is, to my mind, one weakness of Florene: a lack of patience. Some of their best ideas seem rushed rather than developed, with the movements shifting before they've had time to build a sustained mood. It was an interesting choice for a Saturday night at Dan's, to follow a straightforward acoustic act with such a processed sound as Florene, but for the most part the audience seemed appreciative and undeterred.

The revelation of the night, however, came with Matthew and the Arrogant Sea. The early-release tracks from the band's forthcoming Family, Family, Family meets the Magic Christian, are mostly acoustic, psychedelic folk peppered with other instruments: Casios, Omnichords and the like. Live, the band is coming from somewhere else entirely. Two drummers and two guitars drive the ensemble into a loud, shambling cross between Pavement's deconstructed indie-rock (without the cynicism) and The Grateful Dead's communal jam (without the extended solos). The band's acoustic April show at Strawberry Fields was quiet and had an almost campfire atmosphere; on this Saturday night, Matthew and the Arrogant Sea were undeniably a rock band, leaning into the backbeat as if they'd done it this way all along. There are still kinks to be worked out, but it should be interesting to see where this band goes over the next year.

"I really like to change it up like that," said brainchild Matthew Gray later. "I actually like that the record sounds nothing like us live with the full band."

 
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