Sunday night I headed to the Hi-Dive to check out an indie rock show featuring bands from the east coast. For the past couple nights I'd been checking out a lot of music that definitely fit the Halloween mood, so I decided to switch it up a bit and go for a show that didn't have a seasonably dark feel throughout. Sunday night's mix of folk-rock and garage-rock was just the change of pace I was looking for - still a musically good show but not necessarily affected by the Halloween atmosphere.

Carter Tanton

Carter Tanton and his band opened up the show. This three-piece band from Baltimore created an atmospheric folk-rock sound using a combination of guitar, keyboards and drums. Carter Tanton handled the guitar, and he generated space-filling sounds that encompassed each song, almost in a shoegaze 'wall of sound' fashion. The keyboard player would help fill out 'wall of sound' with occasional pads, but mostly used synths to cover the bass lines in each song. The drumming was usually straight forward, lingering in the background while keeping a slow steady rhythm to subtly drive each song.

Carter Tanton

The band started with a few songs that really showcased the shoegaze meets folk sound, as each atmospheric guitar driven song clocked in between seven and nine minutes long. Each successive song sounded less abstract and more folk like, especially as Carter Tanton added more and more of his vocals. It was an interesting combination of styles that made for futuristic sounding progressive folk. The last two songs in the band's set were singles released to support Carter Tanton's album Freeclouds, beginning with "Murderous Joy", a song that was the most folk-driven song in the set but still retained a strong indie rock presence. The band finished with "Horrorscope", a song that best embodies Carter Tanton's mixed use of genres. Carter Tanton may be too experimental for general folk listeners, but indie rock fans that enjoy folk as well should probably check him out.

Purling Hiss

Up next was a garage rock 'n' roll band from Philadelphia called Purling Hiss. Other than the east coast connection, this was the odd band out of the night - not that that was a bad thing. Both the opener and headliner boasted more mellow, atmospheric sounds with a folk influence. Not these guys; Purling Hiss was straight up, high energy, knock your socks off rock 'n' roll. The trio of Mike Polizze on guitar/vocals, Kiel Everett on bass and Mike Sneeringer on drums created a raw and classic guitar-driven rock sound with heavy  riffs, fast tempos, and blistering solos. If Mike Polizze wasn't delivering screeches or cool vocals, he was figuratively dousing gasoline on his fret board and setting his axe ablaze.

Purling Hiss

Purling Hiss is definitely a band that needs to be seen live. Their recordings are extremely low fidelity, like the master microphone wasn't even placed in the same room at the studio. But live, the drums are extremely tight and crisp, the bass is fluid and rhythmic, and the guitar sounds so good it's unreal. The band's instrumental prowess is where it's at, and songs like "Passenger Queen" featuring more energetic and screeching vocals really embody the essence of rock 'n' roll. If the band could tighten up the vocal delivery to match the quality of their instrumentation, this band would be unstoppable. Instead, songs like "Run from the City", "The Hoodoo" and "Don't Even Try It" suffered a bit because the vocals, especially the "oohs", weren't quite as clean. The concept is perfect, but the execution was lacking a bit. Still, if you are a fan of rock 'n' roll, Purling Hiss is band you need to see, because they really do know how to deliver that rip-roaring classic rock sound.

The War On Drugs

The War On Drugs came out last to play their headlining set. This four piece indie rock band consisted of Adam Granduciel on vocals/guitar/harmonica, David Hartley on bass/trumpet, Steven Urgo on drums, and Robbie Bennett on keyboards/guitar. They create a hybrid indie rock sound that embodies a strong folk and Americana influence. Somehow they have been able to take the essence of modern rock and inject it into songs that have blues, folk-rock and country components, making a combined sound that stands out on its own. The vocals, use of acoustic guitar, piano, and occasional use of harmonica provide the folk aspect, while the bass, drums and occasional use of sampler drive the indie rock sound. The lead electric guitar, however seems to embody both aspects all the time, and really seems to be the glue the holds the two styles together.

The War On Drugs

The War On Drugs performed a mix of songs from their two albums Wagonwheel Blues and Slave Ambient, along with a handful of selections from the Future Weather EP. The set began with the country-esque "Arms Like Boulders" before they atmospherically transitioned into the more uptempo indie rock song "Baby Missiles". Then they really highlighted their hybrid sound with the folk-rock song "Comin' Through".

Kiel Everett joining The War On Drugs

For the most part, The War On Drugs performed the live versions of their sings pretty faithfully to the album versions, up until it was time for "There Is No Urgency". That song was extended to nearly ten minutes, including a very atmospheric introduction that included a hypnotic ambient trumpet part. In the song "Brothers", The War On Drugs invited Purling Hiss bassist Kiel Everett to play acoustic twelve-string guitar along with them. After being instructed the G-Am-C chord progression, he was able to play right along the band without a hitch. One other song got the extended treatment, The War On Drugs closing song "A Needle In Your Eye #16", which the band atmospherically and entrancingly stretched out to twice it's original recorded length. Since at the Hi-Dive there is no backstage to retreat to before coming out for an encore, the band decided to break into an additional song, "It's Your Destiny".

The War On Drugs

From The War On Drugs albums, I knew they were onto an interesting combination of sound, but their style didn't really strike me until I saw it all come together live. Their music may be a little more on the mellow side, but there is something captivating and calming about the sound, especially in its full live force. It's like they took folk music from the '60s and '70s, a little rock from the '80s, and wrapped it around new sounds, making it folk-rock with a distinct nod to the past but geared for the current generation. If you like bluesy or country folk and/or mellow indie rock, The War On Drugs hybrid is something to check out.

See more pictures from this show in the Facebook photo album. Like the Concerted Effort page and stay up to date.

The War On Drugs Set List
Hi-Dive 10/30/11
(Click on song names to purchase from iTunes)

2 Responses so far.

  1. Stephen says:

    The descriptions infuse the desire to hear the bands live, the adjectives describe the details of the interplay between instruments and the music accessible to an audience thousands of miles away. I'll keep coming back to Concerted Effort

  2. Stephen says:

    The descriptions infuse the desire to hear the bands live, the adjectives describe the details of the interplay between instruments that makes the music accessible to an audience thousands of miles away. I'll keep coming back to Concerted Effort

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