Saturday night’s production was refreshingly thoughtful and unpretentious as far as rock shows go. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the afternoon quiet because there were plenty of head-bob inducing moments (Daredevil Christopher Wright’s “A Conversation About Cancer” is always a raucous endeavor), but there was a distinct lack of the kind of pelvis-pummeling psyche-enveloping bombast you might expect from such an event. Instead, the music seemed to strike an accord with the space in which it found itself, rather than trying to take it over.
Kalispell, project of local musician Shane Leonard, were the first to strike the contemplative chord. The group performed as a duo, the other member being Ben Lester who alternated between the pedal steel and the drum kit. The pedal steel’s celestial ring acted as the sky above Shane’s well crafted folk tunes, the soft crunch of the drum kit acted as the earth below.
Adelyn Rose took the stage next, striking a slightly more aggressive stance with the talented Dave Power laying down a variety of beats (never the same one twice it seems but all deftly played). While the band always seems slightly on the verge of dipping their fret-boards into the whirlpool of balls-out rock, the volume is always well controlled and careful not to overpower Addie Strei’s soft, glassy wail.
Then came Zoo Animal, marking the halfway point of the show. Their new EP, Departure came into the world on February 18th, a fact mentioned little (if at all) by the modest Holly Newsom, the songwriter as well as group’s only permanent member. The group classifies themselves (in part) as minimalist, and one of the most notable things about the EP is the tremendous amount of space Newsom provides within her songs. In a live context, music that embraces silence as much as Zoo Animal’s is inevitably in danger of being overtaken by that which it draws attention to (i.e. the silence becomes a distraction). Newsom faces this danger head on and conquers it with the shear intensity of her performance.
Capping off the evening was a set by the event’s headliners – the Daredevil Christopher Wright. This was the first performance I’d seen of theirs since the release of their last EP, The Long Suffering Song. As you might gather from the review I did when it came out, I’m a big fan of the record, so I was very gratified to see the band come out and play the first three tracks off the EP back to back (flawlessly, I might add – but don’t need to because that’s just what we’ve come to expect from these guys). They proceeded with an admirable crowd-slaying, playing tracks from their beloved first album such as “The East Coast”, “We’re Not Friends”, and closing with “Stewardess” at the audience’s request.
The high caliber of music made the afternoon a truly memorable one, and marked another success for WUEC and the Eau Claire music scene in general. If you missed the occasion, be sure to keep your eye out for the next one like it.
-Caleb Price, February 2012
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Photographs by Zachary Oliphant