Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chilly Scenes of Winter

Seasons moved into Winter for their second residency on Jan 9 at The Echo as they journey through a year (plus some) in a month. Last week's stage design of pumpkins, dried leaves and bare trees was replaced by twinkling snowflakes, icicles and a frosty blue and white color scheme. Web in Front presented the evening and the line up was incredible, beginning with Judson, who played a flat out rocking set that was as aggressive as I ever seen from them, and it was dynamic. With a lineup that includes John Seasons and Kaitlin Wolfberg from Seasons and Sheridan Riley (of Avi Buffalo and Tenlons Fort) Judson and Mary lead the band through powerful versions of "People Grow Up So Slow" and "William Jenning Bryan" that sounded so strong and sure that it took the audience by surprise. Me included. Passionate vocals from Judson shows the band just getting better and better, and the combined violins of Mary and Kaitlin give the music a real majesty.

Tenlons Fort moved me, shook me up and ejected me into the stratosphere with a set that deserved to be on anybody's 'best of...' list. After Saturday's indelible performance at Lot 1 for my Feed Your Head show, I didn't think they could sound any better. I was wrong. With just John Seasons on bass, Will Courtney on guitar and Sheridan Riley on drums (I asked her if her arms would hold out) Jack Gibson was in as fine a voice as I have ever heard and the songs sounded more beautiful than ever before. Is this superlative enough? In the rush and excitement of the evening I asked Jack about a specific song which I think he said was composed for a film. It had Berlin in the title I believe and it was a total stunner. I melted into the floor as I listened, each note taking me further into that deeper space, that ordinary music can't accomplish. It's solid bass lines were of a depth and power that I can only compare to Pinback, with its similar direct injection into my music-soul. I don't think I recovered from that one song all night.

Leaving Seasons to try to match that level of perfection, they rose to the occasion honorably. Playing their EP, Winter, in it's entirety, it was a reminder of just how good those songs are. The whole band seemed to be playing at the peak of their powers and it was one of their best sets ever. And I should know, I've seen about 25 of their shows. Ending with a couple of extra songs, "Sign of the Beat" was a particularly apt choice for the last song. Just a quick mention of how the addition of Kaitlin Wolfberg's violin during the past year has had an amazing impact on the consolidation of their sound, and her contribution can't be underestimated.

After a brief break, Kind Heart & Coronets returned to the stage of The Echo after a six year break. Lead Asa Ferry explained that various medical emergencies had sidelined three of the band's members, but they were forging ahead with some substitutions. This made for a somewhat raggedy performance, but I was reminded of why I liked this band six years ago. The songs are well crafted and interesting and, in spite of the musicians unfamiliarity with some of the material, they pulled off a really interesting and rewarding set. Who knows what heights they could reach once they patch themselves together again.

What a great way to spend a Monday night. Here we are, only two weeks into the new year and I think I've already seen three of the best shows of the year. What's going on?!! There was a palpable excitement in the crowd, like everyone discovering their favorite new toy all at the same time. Even Donovan was there. Albeit as a lifesize cardboard cutout. Looking remarkable for his age, it was good to see him out and about...and to see that he appreciates the new music as well. Congratulations to Travis Woods of Web In Front for hosting such a superb show.


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