Bumbershoot Review: Fences Plays Melancholy, Melodic Songs to Attentive Crowd

Laura Musselman
Who: Fences

When: 6:45 p.m.

Where: EMP Sky Church

When Chris Mansfield performs live these days--or, at least, during his packed show at Bumbershoot--he does so with a nearly blank expression on his face. The frontman of Fences is sort of stoic while he sings and plays guitar: it's almost as if he's staring off into the distance or caught in some kind of daydream. Maybe he's imagining the stories behind heart-breaking songs like "Sadie," seeing the memory unfold like a movie. Mansfield is also quiet and reserved between songs, not really talking to his three bandmates or to the audience, except to say his thanks to the crowd for attending the show. Whatever the reason for his anti-social behavior, the result is both unsettling and perfectly appropriate for his bummed-out, melodic songs. Hearing Mansfield unleash stage banter after singing, "I lose/ I lose/ I always lose," would break the emotional tension his lyrics and steady instrumentation work so hard to build.

And that instrumentation was most apparent on Fences' second-to-last song of their set, "From Russia with Love," which was also the set's best orchestrated and best organized song. The guitar crescendos that built to the chorus and then fell away as Mansfield strummed just a few chords and sang, "Face this onward now," were perfectly dramatic. The quiet keys, subtly rumbling high-hat, and brushed drums made the song sound both expansive and intimate. There's a reason people started lining up three-deep outside the Sky Church nearly 30 minutes before Fences went on: Mansfield's emotionally intense but melodic songs are impossible to resist.

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