review and photos by Katy McCourt-Basham
The Vera Project was unusually quiet for a Saturday night when Papercuts and Port O’Brien were slated to play. I walked in just before the show started, and, departing from the usual clamor of the Vera just before a show is going to begin, most were on the fringe of the showroom talking quietly amongst themselves.
First to come onstage was an unannounced “opening act” of sorts. He got onstage, introduced himself as “Golden Graham”, and told the crowd “I’m not Port O’Brien, I’m just here to play a couple of songs.” Graham played only two songs: The first was a cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen” (famously covered by Elliott Smith), as well as one of his own songs. Graham, who is a little rough looking (in a beardy lumberjack kind of way), had a surprisingly sweet voice. I only wish we could have heard more.
Graham, who it turns out is a member of Port O’Brien, was then joined by the rest of the band. They began the set with “Don’t Take My Advice”, one of their more acoustically driven songs. The set started out on the quieter side, but it didn’t take long for the energy to pick up. The crowd began to leave the edges of the room, moving toward the stage. Toes were definitely tapping. It’s hard to find good words besides (“really good”), to describe how they sound, but their instrumentation was balanced beautifully — banjo was used in many of their songs, and they did a great job of seamlessly fitting it into their music without allowing it to completely dictate their overall sound. The music varied from simpler folk songs to complex instrumental pieces, but every minute of it was enjoyable. To finish out the set, the band invited people to take pots, pans, and spoons out of the box they had on the floor to help add a little percussion to their last song. A few enthusiastic fans and friends were brought onstage to play, and it didn’t take long for everyone to join in the clamor. It was the most fun concert audience-participation I’ve ever been a part of.
Having never seen Papercuts (but having really dug their last album), I was pretty excited to see them play. Though they played well, there was a significant drop in energy from Port O’Brien’s set. They played older and newer songs, but the new ones, which felt kind of energetic on the album, ended up feeling very passive live. I stayed through maybe eight songs, and it started to pick up a little bit, but by a certain point, all of the songs started to run together. Though I ended up leaving early, I would be curious to see Papercuts play again on the chance that this was just an off night for them.