Monday, May 16
The Low Anthem are the "American Pickers" of indie rock, uncovering not just long-forgotten instruments>"/>
Monday, May 16
The Low Anthem
Monday, May 16
The Low Anthem are the "American Pickers" of indie rock, uncovering not just long-forgotten instruments which they restore and record with, but a rootsy style of American folk music as well, one worthy of being dusted off and admired. And admired it was at the Triple Door Monday night, the band's last American stop before heading to Vancouver and taking a few weeks off.
"How was dinner, America?" asked singer Ben Knox Miller, serving one of several food-related jokes before he and his band dived into "Ghost Woman Blues," the lead-off track on their recently released fourth record, Smart Flesh. The album was recorded in an abandoned pasta-sauce factory just outside their hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, and the album's recording locale casts a bewitching vibe across its entirety. The songs are sparse, open, and heavy with reverb, telling tales of the lonely, the heartbroken, and the downtrodden.
The Low Anthem's four members, which also include Jeff Prystowsky, Jocie Adams, and Mat Davidson, are all multi-instrumentalists, and each one played so many instruments during the show that it'd be hard to call one the drummer, one the bass player, etc., as it simply wouldn't be accurate. Members don't just shift from drums to percussion or something related, they move from bass to pump organ to banjo to trumpet and on and on. When was the last time you saw someone play crotales or singing saw? Miller even played a cell phone--two of them actually, at the same time--with one calling the other, both on speaker, with Miller whistling into them, which created an eerie, ambient electronic hum. This is the kind of unconventional instrumentation you get from the Low Anthem, who pull it all off without be gimmicky about it.
All four members can sing too, and the Low Anthem's low rumbles resemble hymns at times, Wilco at others, with each member providing a rich voice to the mix, which on several occasions found the quartet in front of an old-time microphone, just four voices and Miller's acoustic guitar.
Former Low Anthem member Daniel Lefkowitz, who appeared on the band's breakthrough 2008 record, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, opened the show, playing a mostly forgettable set of Dylan-inspired folk, even going electric at the end, and later joining his former bandmates during their set for a few songs.
Both the Low Anthem's live show and new album are impressive but never flashy, and the band doesn't cater to trends or get lost in technology. They are dark without being bleak, but it's their love of folk music and its rusty musical relics that is hardest to shake when the last chord rings out.
The scene: A motley crew of yuppies and shaggy bohemians.
Food-related joke #2: "If you're going to eat while we play," Miller faux-chided, "can you at least do it in time?"
Food-related joke #3: Also from Miller: "We've never played a cafeteria before."