Yesterday at NX35: The Middle East at Dan's

Band: The Middle East
Venue: Dan's Silverleaf
Time: 9 p.m.

True to the random, follow-your-nose nature of NX35, I was just heading out of Dan's to catch a spot in line at Hailey's before the much-anticipated Walkmen show filled to capacity, when Australia's Middle East kicked off just in time to change my plans.

At first, the sweetly arpeggiated acoustic finger-style struck me as somewhat saccharine--until a more tragic note in singer Jordan Ireland's delicate tenor caught me short.

45 minutes later, the seven-piece closed with "Blood," a haunted rave-up that somehow managed to wrap the contradictory emotions of deep loss and celebration around a celtic-tinged melody with four-part background vocals, leaving the now rapt audience literally yelling for more, and booing when it was clear no encore would be forthcoming.

With a lineup reminiscent of Telegraph Canyon's--banjo, acoustic and electric guitars, accordion, keyboard and multiple vocalists--and with an ambient, roots-indie sound just as hard to pin down, Middle East left an indelible impression. After the set, with the near-capacity crowd at the Silverleaf still yelling and catcalling during teardown, the band members kept looking up wide-eyed, genuinely surprised at the response.

Middle East's manager seemed completely unprepared for the rush on CDs that ensued: "Let me go back to the van and see what I've got," he said.

He came back with two. 

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Dave Sims