For my last City Arts Festival show on Saturday October 20, a friend who rarely attends shows asked me to join her at the Crocodile to see Lost in the Trees, headlining with Horse Feathers, Midtown Dickens, and Dana Buoy. I knew nothing of any of those bands, but I was happy to accompany my friend out to a show. Also for me, one mark of a good festival is that it offers an opportunity to explore music I might never have heard otherwise, and this show delivered on that.
Dana Buoy apparently is a solo artist, though he brought along a couple friends to play as a trio on electric guitar, synths, and drums. I had an interesting experience with preconceptions: for some reason I was expecting the night’s lineup to be basically folk rock, and so I started out thinking of Dana Buoy as folk rock with an unusually electronic instrumentation. And I think there was some feel of folk rock to some of the songs, but as his set progressed, I realized how I was misleading myself, and saw that chamber/art pop would be a better description. Something more akin to Andrew Bird, say, or Owen Pallett, but not synthpop despite the prominent role of the synths, which helped give the music a rich full sound. I really enjoyed his set, and having my mistaken preconceptions subverted. Dana Buoy is someone for me to investigate further.
Midtown Dickens, another trio, played quite a diversity of instruments: guitar, harmonica, banjo, drums, mandolin, clarinet, and saw were all used at various points, in several cases by more than one member, with all three singing at times as well. And yet, several songs into the set, they brought out a member of Lost in the Trees “because he plays cello, and we don’t.” Later they switched that guest musician out for another Lost in the Trees member on bass, and then again for drums while their regular drummer took a turn on guitar. All that is to say, they were clearly a musically ambitious and talented band. Stylistically, their music fell into the grab-bag of “Americana”—a blend of country, folk, bluegrass, and similar genres. Unfortunately, their songs were a bit lost on me: they generally had the weighty dramatic feel of being About Something—not in a pretentious way, just that the lyrical content clearly had more depth and meaning than typical pop—and as they weren’t particularly to my taste, I didn’t feel inclined to give as much attention as they warranted. Still, that’s my flaw, not Midtown Dickens’, and I did enjoy their performance.
Horse Feathers were another Americana band, in this case sort of “chamber country”: country/folk music with a touch of classical provided by two violins and a cello, led by a singer/guitarist and with a drummer rounding out the lineup. Like Midtown Dickens, a few members pulled double-duty, with both the singer/guitarist and drummer taking turns on banjo as well, and one violinist also playing mandolin and saw, as well as singing backing vocals. Also like Midtown Dickens, their songs weren’t much to my taste, but the band was undoubtedly pretty good.
Lost in the Trees brought the evening back to chamber/art rock, as a sextet on guitar/vocals, keyboard/vocals, bass, drums, violin, and cello. Continuing with the evening’s theme of multi-talented musicians, the bassist and keyboardist also played synths and toms (respectively) in a few songs, and further doubled as a horn section, playing tuba and French horn. Again, I was bit by my preconceptions: expecting folk rock, this was a lot more rock than I expected, in a good way. They played that sort of modern post-progressive rock that’s somewhere between, say, Grizzly Bear and Minus the Bear—basically, they were the kind of band I expect to have “Bear” in the name, so Lost in the Trees is kind of a clever twist, even if it’s just in my mind. As a violinist myself, I’m always thrilled to see a good rock violinist, and both she and the cellist had some really nice tremolo work on a song introduced as the “slow dance”. The rest of the band measured up as well, capable of pulling off a choral fadeout, or segueing from a quiet, gentle song into wild freeform as a transition into a big dramatic piece. The members of Midtown Dickens, who’ve been touring with Lost in the Trees for a while, returned the earlier guest-musician favor by joining in on the last song. I thoroughly enjoyed this set and discovering a great band new to me, and I’ll be keeping an ear out for more from Lost in the Trees.
A few more photos, all by Victoria Holt. First, Horse Feathers:
Next, Lost in the Trees: