Buzzed Bands Podcast, Ep. 2 w/ Cold Blood Club

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Low Anthem Played Bowery Ballroom

BSC contributor Kenya stopped by Bowery Ballroom the other day to check out The Low Anthem on Monday.

After garnering much praise on their handmade independent release, The Low Anthem released their Nonesuch debut, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, with new track listing and remastering by Bob Ludwig. The Rhode Island trio met at Brown and play a multitude of unusual instruments. Among the 27 on the record (recorded on Block Island) are zither, pump organ, Tibetan singing bowl, and an oil drum. They've been on tour with Ray Lamontagne, Elvis Perkins, and Josh Ritter, performed at Bonnaroo and will be at the Austin City Limits festival, among others this summer.

They started the set out by playing "Cage the Songbird". Well, they started out by offering members of the audience some left over steamed dumplings after admitting a fear of seeing empty space in front of them when they took the stage. But they came on to raucous applause and the pleasant surprise of seeing the place nearly packed. The ballroom was full of people who were obviously very comfortable with standing still, as this particular brand of gospel tinged folk encouraged swaying in place.

Low Anthem just got back from Bonnaroo. They hardly seemed fussed. Instead, they were relaxed and unhurried. In fine form, they breezed through their set of old familiar tunes, collaborations and covers at shows end with ease. It was a fantastic way to kick off the re-release of their album. Its very possible that while singing, the soul crawling out of Ben Miller's vocal chords forced my eyeballs to pop out of my head. If they've heard it, they've heard it a few times. They must be tired of the comparison. Bob. Fucking. Dylan. I feel like Bob Dylan has an academy somewhere and these are his graduates.

On stage, they were surrounded by the many tools they used to invoke Darwin and bring it to life. Each band member playing musical chairs throughout the set. They rarely made use of the drums but didn't need to. Ben Miller and Jeff Prystowsky, both classical composers, shaped and molded each tune in such a way that allowed for immense diversity in the way they recorded and performed them. Which makes for an album that is distinctive and never boring.

The show made me feel like I was at home in Arkansas drinking lemonade in the back yard and listening to the crickets and watching the fireflies dance around. The Bowery was so quiet at times during the set (save for the band's harmonies), if you closed your eyes you'd literally be somewhere else. One could see why this band was the perfect fit for Tennessee-based Bonnaroo festival. Imagine being in a tent and letting "To Ohio" wash over you.

Timid, down-to-earth, talented and gracious, the members of Low Anthem deserve their critical acclaim. They showed the audience - mostly veteran fans who'd been with the band since the first imaginings of some of Darwin's tracks - their appreciation.

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