Saturday, December 18
There was nothing strange about Ravenna Woods playing SW's Reverb Fest back in October -- the local trio>"/>
There was nothing strange about Ravenna Woods playing SW's Reverb Fest back in October -- the local trio is eclectic and organic and fit in nicely next to other performers like Wild Orchid Children and the Young Evils, and the band frequently plays the Tractor Tavern anyway. Contrarily, last night the band found themselves in somewhat foreign territory as the opening act for power-pop-punk favorites The Classic Crime and This Providence at the Showbox SoDo -- the biggest local venue Ravenna Woods has ever played. By as early as 7:30, the house was full and getting fuller.
As is common of Classic Crime/any Tooth & Nail band shows, last night's crowd skewed towards eager teen fans -- the 21+ bar area was scarcely populated throughout the evening. Bands like The Classic Crime and This Providence specialize in energizing, rah-rah, power-chord-heavy rock music. Ravenna Woods' brand of rock music is much more subtle and less straight forward -- it's intricate and a little enigmatic; one could call it a thinking man's music. What would said teen fans out for a night of power-pop think of such strange songs?
Ravenna Woods has a non-traditional set-up -- Chris Cunningham plays the acoustic guitar and sings lead; next to him Matt Badger plays the drums standing up; next to Badger Brantley Duke plays the tambourine, the xylophone, and sings back-up. One of the most striking things about the band's music is that myriad of percussion elements; they create tightly syncopated rhythms that then juxtapose with Cunningham's strumming, sometimes twangy guitar. There's a lot going on, and one could see their set as a competition, with all three vying to be the busiest band member: Cunningham plays a vigorous guitar and he is a fearless vocalist whose voice doesn't exhibit a shred of timidity. In the center behind his drum kit, Badger resembles a TV chef standing behind a counter violently chopping vegetables. And Duke is constantly standing up to shake the tambourine and yelp into his microphone, then sitting down to play a xylophone melody, then standing up again.
Standouts from the tireless set included the fluid "In the World," full of sharp harmonies and clattering drums; the soulful "Ghosts;" and the lively "Demons and Lakes," a delightfully forceful song with an almost Latin-sounding guitar line -- it sparks with life. All three songs can be found on Ravenna Woods' Demons and Lakes, and it's safe to say that many of The Classic Crime/This Providence fans headed to the merch table to pick up that record. In a crowd of excitable young ones, the only way to really judge the audience's satisfaction level is by the amount of "woo!"s a band receive. Last night's crowd seemed a little puzzled by Ravenna Woods' experimental approach, but ultimately the trio's energy level impressed. And the tinkling xylophone, the rippling guitar, and the chanting vocals all made for a magical effect that matched perfectly with the Christmas-lit Toyland stage. In the end, many "woo!"s were awarded.
The crowd: Young, which served me well since it left the bar fairly empty and all to myself!
Random notebook dump: The band that followed Ravenna Woods was called Eclectic Approach. They played a song about Four Loko. Yes, the song was as tiresome and terrible as the idea. In fact, it might be the worst song I've ever heard live.