Luke Rathborne was a prime example of why it’s sometimes good to catch the opening act. For me, he was the standout surprise of the night and I wouldn’t have minded if he played longer. He started off with no frills or introductory talk, dressed like a little like Andrew W.K. in white jeans and a white tee, except they looked washed and clean. His show was high energy, with him pounding away on the guitar while singing/screaming melancholic lyrics. “This guy can sing,” someone in the audience said loudly. I have to agree. He also worked the stage more than any other act I can remember seeing at Mercury Lounge. He was all over the place. His recorded music is much more down tempo and folksy, but live he’s more wild. In fact, I’m not sure he even played any songs off his Dog Years EP. No matter - I hope he rocks out every live show, because that is something to see.
Rathborne broke down at lightening speed, and Vetiver was next. Vetiver encompasses that feeling of the Pacific Northwest for me. I’ve never been there, but Vetiver makes me think of it. They’re based in San Francisco, which I don’t think even qualifies as “pacific northwest,” but frontman Andy Cabic has certainly seemed to channel a northern woods folk vibe in the past.
They got to the new material off their just released (that day) The Errant Charm right away. As this album was literally released yesterday, most of their set I was completely unfamiliar with. I actually found myself wishing they played more older tunes, and from the crowd responses, I don’t think I was alone. Don’t get me wrong, they played a great show, but it’s always a better experience when you are more familiar with the material. They played a couple tunes off Tight Knit, but I didn’t recognize anything else.
Vetiver also seems to be going in a different direction with the new album. They still have that western sound incorporated into the songs, but the new songs seem to be leaning more towards a 60s bossanova feel with psychedelic jam elements. I felt like I should have been holding a cocktail instead of a beer and thickened my eyeliner more. They did play a cover of the Go-Betweens’ “Streets of Your Town,” right after a song that Cabic announced was partially inspired by them. For the most part, the band rolled along from song to song without much ado in between. The drummer was smiling and looking like he was having a good time, despite the fact that it was “steamy up here” on stage. It was pretty steamy down on the floor, too. Maybe it was for that reason that their set seemed to go on much longer than usual. Regardless, the band didn’t let their energy drag, feeding off each other to keep it up. Towards the end I was certainly feeling the drag of the heat and contemplating getting out for air. A couple more songs. Ok, a couple more songs. I kept waiting for one of the songs I wished they would play, and my patience paid off. The very last song was “More of This.” Yes! Many others in the crowd shared my enthusiasm at this, as this song probably got the most crowd reaction. We all found it within ourselves to end on an energetic high note. I want more of that, please.
Vetiver plays for their Berliner fans tonight, the first show of the European leg of their tour. Their first date back in the states will be at Brooklyn’s Bell House on July 1oth, after which they head back west. In the meantime, grab yourself a copy of The Errant Charm here, and familiarize yourself with the new songs. Luke Rathborne has no further dates as of yet, but his double EP is available here, along with a book of poems