Live Review: Bowerbirds and Dry the River at The Crocodile

Bebe Besch / April 9, 2012
Bowerbirds at The Crocodile (All photos and videos by Bebe Besch)

Through the brush and serenity of Yellowstone National Park, two bands paving an innovative path in the way of accessible folk music traveled to Seattle’s The Crocodile last week to share their creations from many miles east of our coast.

Hailing from North Carolina, Bowerbirds proved themselves as headliners with their powerful story-telling structures. Within each song of their extended performance, Bowerbirds’ pure vocals complemented each environmentally friendly tune. Their verbal rawness was especially present as they descended down their set list filled with many new songs from their latest album, The Clearing, released last month. Many members of the band held these impressive vocal duties, with the lead shifting between songwriter/guitarist Phil Moore and Beth Tacular, who was also often found on accordion or keys.

Bowerbirds at The Crocodile by Bebe Besch

A few of the new songs, such as “Hush” and “Walk the Furrows,” were particularly absorbing; their intricacies differed from Bowerbirds’ previous work, with intense finger picking on guitar mixed with violin and choir-like harmonies. These bolder sounds of The Clearing, with their experiments in instrumentation, were moving on the scope of The Crocodile’s stage, but that didn’t stop Bowerbirds’ older material from being inspiring as well. Early in their performance, “In Our Talons” literally had the crowd swaying, while cooing to the lyrics as they passed.

With Seattle, Bowerbirds shared the wonder of the world’s beautiful offerings translated to song. Their stories of home in North Carolina, travels, and being fans of the television show Northern Exposure only solidified their obvious muse found in nature – and in Seattle, these feelings are all mutual. Though Bowerbirds are not native to the Pacific Northwest, their folk sounds easily nest in amongst our own beloved and local artists.

Dry the River at The Crocodile by Bebe Besch

Openers Dry the River traveled even further to share their own remarkable songs. The five-piece from London currently only has an EP available in the US, with their debut album, Shallow Bed, coming out in a little over a week. Their performance never lacked in intensity as each of their songs mixed paces, most times weaving a cappella folk with bass-heavy rock. Intelligently crafted, these songs had us all patiently eager for more. Lead singer Peter Liddle wasn’t afraid to sing smoothly at the appropriate moments, and then scream with voice-cracking excitement at a song’s turning point. Translated live, their latest single, “New Ceremony,” exemplified these executions, with the combination of each band member’s feral energy. Even Will Harvey on the violin was ruthless at Dry the River’s buildups and particularly in the conclusion of their single “No Rest” – though his personality was quiet, his tenacity was noticeable amongst the guitars and blaring of drums.

Dry the River at The Crocodile by Bebe Besch

Between each song, Dry the River acknowledged the crowd. Bassist Scott Miller was most extroverted as he cracked cliché jokes that he said went over much better at their previous show in Minneapolis, which was followed by laughter. “Please, let’s just play some more music,” Liddle insisted, to detour from their attempts at humor. Comedy may not have been their strong suit, but it mattered not as they continued to play; with each song Seattle was more overcome by the power that flushed through their folk. By the end of the night, all of their EPs had completely sold out. The dynamics of Dry the River’s set are hopefully just a taste of what’s to become of the band and perhaps the next time they perform in Seattle they will be headlining themselves. If you don’t have the patience to wait for this probable show, however, you can catch them at the Sasquatch Music Festival in May, and can watch Dry the River perform “Weights & Measures” from their show last week below:

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