Live Review: Fences @ Bumbershoot 9/5

photo by Christopher Nelson
(courtesy of Bumbershoot)

Sunday 6.45pm
EMP Sky Church

The quote “Forever Bummed” on Fences’ MySpace page may give you some clue as to what to expect from local singer-songwriter Chris Mansfield and his musical leanings.

His songs probably aren’t going to be used to sell candy or chocolate milk anytime soon; instead they’re jaded, melancholy, intensely personal affairs. And deeply, deeply sad. That’s not to say they’re not any good, on the contrary, Fences’ gently despondent guitar strumming and lilting, almost-whispered vocals easily sit between the less-is-more genius of the xx and the brooding introspect of Elliott Smith.

Tonight, Mansfield looks every inch the quintessential Seattle troubadour; tattoos splashed up and down both arms, red beanie pushed back on his head, and a blue sleeveless hoodie adorn his slight frame.

Show opener “Your Bones” sees two people in fox masks on stage softly banging a big band drum in time to the music, while the beautiful melody of “Boys Around Here” gallops around and around the entire venue, and the stark, looped country chords of “My Girl The Horse” have everyone’s heads nodding in blissful reverence.

The Fences frontman is a truly gifted songwriter and a master of wise restraint in his craft. Seattle is indeed very lucky to have him call this city home.

High: The raw and stripped-down perfect woe of “From Roses” which sees the band exit the stage leaving Chris alone with his guitar to play the song in all its wondrous simplicity.

Low: The odd ocean of silence that flooded the venue in between songs when Chris was busy retuning his guitar and absolutely no-one was saying anything. Not that anyone minded of course. But if you’re looking for jokes and/or “Hello Cleveland!”-style banter shouted from the stage, there are far less talented bands doing that sort of thing elsewhere.

In a Tweet: Gloomy vocals and helplessly sad acoustic strim-strummery never sounded so good.

Did you see Fences play live at Bumbershoot this year? What was your highlight? Let KEXP know in the Comments section below!

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One Comment

  1. megan
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    this show was GRREAT. i got the vinyl yesterday: http://www.sadcastle.com

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