The Elderly played the High Dive on Tuesday, March 22.
The High Dive
Tuesday, March 23
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In the early 1960s, every band in the Northwest played the same song. The Kingsmen, the Wailers, and Paul Revere & the Raiders all played a propulsive cover of a Richard Berry tune called "Louie, Louie." In the end, only one of them could make the song famous, and by association, hit the cultural jackpot themselves.
In 2011, every indie-folk band in the Northwest is playing the same song. It's a mild bit of acoustic pitter-patter bathed in a continuous stream of three- and four-part-harmonies, and it wraps up in a little more than three minutes. Every band calls it something different. Some bands play it all night long. The ubiquity of such a monotonous song is beginning to make the Eagles look like sympathetic characters.
Seattle's music establishment has never been at a loss for ideas, fresh melodies, or dynamic live performers. But at the moment, the city's Americana-inspired easy rockers are collectively stuck in neutral, unable to get past a pretty melody and a well-executed harmony. The Elderly and BC Campbell are two of the more recent examples.
BC Campbell played the Seattle song for at least 30 minutes Tuesday night. The band's music exists on a solid plane of the indie-folk archetype, ticked with pedal-steel guitar. Lead vocals were solid, harmonies were nailed, and nuance was nonexistent.
The Elderly brought the volume down, but kept the intrigue up thanks to their unique instrumentation. In lieu of a drummer with a kit, vocalist Whitney Lyman manned a floor tom and tambourine when she was not preoccupied with her banjo. At her side was guitarist William Ransom, the band's co-lead vocalist and the man God had in mind when he mashed up skinny jeans and beards.
Ransom and Lyman are an intriguing couple obviously still searching for their sound, exhibiting a willingness to tinker with the template. They're building from a solid base, and clearly have the tools both lyrically and musically to distinguish themselves from the flock with an infusion of texture, variety, and risk. The same could be said for nearly every band of this genre in town, but The Elderly have the advantage of being a band that's easy to root for.
The Crowd: For a Tuesday night, the High Dive was surprisingly full.
BTW: The Elderly's song "Paper Boats" includes the lyric "The rivers turn the roads," which is not so dissimilar from The Head and the Heart's "Rivers and Roads."