Thursday, November 8, 2012
Sera Cahoone, The Parson Red Heads and Desert Noises @ the VaC (11/3/12)
Prior to seeing ads for this show, I'd never heard of Sera Cahoone. The fact that Desert Noises was opening for her seemed like a good sign, however, so I marked this one down on my calendar. Then I listened to one of Cahoone's songs and felt even more confident that I'd made the right decision. If you haven't heard "Worry All Your Life," give it a play. Its tender admonition to not do like its title says makes it a small miracle, given that indie-folk sometimes seems like the exclusive domain of depressives and neurotics (not that Cahoone doesn't know where those folks come from: she also has a very good song entitled "Nervous Wreck").
I counted a little over fifty people when I arrived at the VaC. The crowd seemed comprised mainly of the younger, collegiate/post-collegiate set. Looking back, that feels like just the right crowd for this music.
Desert Noises opened the show. Seeing this Utah-based band for the third time, I was struck by what I might call the hard-rocking wistfulness of their music. The mature ease and confidence of their twangy riffs and loping, strutting, swinging grooves counterbalanced the fragile, almost childlike lyricism of their melodies and lyrics (and vice versa). Part of me wants to liken it to kids playing dress-up with grown-up clothes, but that sounds way too icky and condescending. Main point: they pulled off the neat trick yet again of sounding both fresh and steeped in tradition.
Up next was Portland group the Parson Red Heads. Talk about steeped in tradition: their pristine harmonies called to mind CSN, their terse solos called to mind Neil Young and Crazy Horse, their jangly riffs called to mind the Byrds, and I'm pretty sure I heard some Tom Petty, Bob Seger and Eagles in the mix too. The fact that they held up under the weight of these influences was a compliment to said harmonies, solos and riffs, but it was even more so to Charlie Hester's bass and Brette Marie Way's drums. And to the pinch of arty drone that they tossed in, which they put to excellent use on their set-capping cover of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air."
Sera Cahoone closed out the night. This Seattle-based musician managed to do one better than her openers: not only did she make her folk and country influences feel fresh, she made them feel as lived-in as your favorite jacket. Gorgeous melodies consistently met with considered, luminously plainspoken lyrics, and the unaffected, unassuming ease with which Cahoone sang them rendered both even more attractive. Her band followed suit: the weeping pedal steel, fluid dobro and lithe rhythm section added just the right colors and shadings, nothing more and nothing less. Mature in the best sense of the word.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.