The Cave Singers could not have chosen a better venue to host its backwoods-inspired folk than the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood. Astounding history aside, the Los Angeles club’s atmosphere is small and intimate, which is perfect for a band that engages its audience as much as the Seattle-based swamp rockers.
Saturday night was not the first time I had seen The Cave Singers. My first experience with the Northwesterners’ live show was last September during Portland’s beloved annual festival, MusicfestNW. Previously, I had listened to their albums on occasion, and although they were great, they weren’t something I listened to consistently. This all changed after seeing them perform the first time.
Like most current musicians in the Seattle area, these guys are part of the folk revival movement (a la Fleet Foxes). But where the flannel-clad foxes’ signature sound derives from beautiful, melodic harmonies, and meticulously orchestrated, whimsical instrumentation, the bearded singers represent the other side of the coin—gritty, raw, in your face, feet stompin’ indie folk.
Though The Cave Singers’ guitarist/vocalist Pete Quirk’s gravelly vocals and relaxed musical demeanor is evident on his records, it is not fully illustrated until you see him perform. It’s as if the music possesses him, occupying his body as he effortlessly twitches and wiggles, belting out rocky vocals inspired by the gloomy Pacific Northwest. Half of the time, he is restricted by the guitar in his hands, hindering him from completely letting loose, but on a good majority of the songs, he lets guitarist Derek Fudesco keep the melody, as he writhes across the stage, slamming his hand against a maraca or straining his lungs by blowing in a harmonica or melodica. The charisma and energy packed into Quirk’s small, stalky stature is electrifying, mesmerizing the audience. This is how he enthralled me last year in Portland, and its how he solidified the fact that I will be in attendance at any and all future Cave Singers shows in Los Angeles.
Before The Cave Singers set stage, Portland-based quartet The Builders and the Butchers set the tone of the night with its macabre, civil war era-inspired folk. Led by guitarist/vocalist Ryan Sollee, this is another band that I have seen before and will see many times again. Each member encompasses a primal passion for the music, strumming and striking and banging his instrument ferociously. In fact, Sollee struck his acoustic guitar so ravenously that he engraved a permanently worn streak where his hand motioned in his strumming.If you are in the Portland area at the end of the month, ring in the New Year with The Builders and the Butchers at Baghdad Theater on December 31 with Langhorne Slim.