Live Review: The Lonely Forest, Black Whales at The Neptune Theater

Bebe Besch / March 6, 2012

The Lonely Forest (all photos by Bebe Besch)

On Saturday night, Anacortes rock band The Lonely Forest headlined their first all-ages show at The Neptune Theater in the U-District.  This performance and the one directly before it in Vancouver are warm-ups for the US tour The Lonely Forest will be embarking on starting in April and lasting until June, when they will also be making an appearance at the 2012 Bonnaroo Music Festival. Though The Lonely Forest will be making their way to many cities over the next few weeks, it is doubtful they will find a crowd more encouraging than the one they had this weekend. Support in Seattle was nearly overwhelming as screams from fans in anticipation (and then later in applause) were ear piercing and unavoidable on the packed, general admission floor.

The Lonely Forest just released Arrows, their third full-length album, last year on Trans Records, but on Saturday we were treated to a few new songs that are being tested out for positions on their next release. After a birthday song, which was created on-the-spot for a fan in the crowd named Zoe, The Lonely Forest followed up with one of those new songs – which you can watch below.

Happy birthday + New Song:

The Lonely Forest by Bebe Besch

Lead singer John Van Deusen seemed sincerely shocked by the welcome response from the crowd as he weaved in and out of being serious and quirky while on stage. He discussed a few of their songs as being influenced by the power of mushrooms and even Benadryl. He mentioned the latter so many times that he told the crowd they should “just be sponsored by Benadryl, already”. During the more energetic sections of some of their songs, John Van Deusen would momentarily leave his position to jump across the stage towards guitarist Tony Ruland. Ruland was the most animated of the night, though; it was a rare occurrence to see him on both feet at one time while playing the notes to their catchy tunes. Drummer Braydn Krueger and bassist Eric Sturgeon took places further towards the back, feeding off each other’s energy.

The Lonely Forest definitely tested the crowd with new material (all of which fit in well with their other light rock melodies combined with a few yelled vocals) but that changed as soon as the Seattle Rock Orchestra appeared on stage to join them. The band switched to playing fan familiar songs, with the first being “Be Everything,” the first track off of Arrows, which John Van Deusen said would most likely never be played in a similar live fashion again (solo/acoustic as it appears on the album). Of course, John Van Deusen did have an orchestra to back him up on stage for the song’s performance, so it had a fuller presence than the recorded track, as he had help from over 10 local musicians on string instruments, including Andrew Joslyn on violin. After the song concluded, the rest of The Lonely Forest joined back up with John Van Deusen on stage, bringing an additional six members on wind instruments from the Seattle Rock Orchestra with them to perform songs such as “We Sing In Time” and “Coyote,” which you can watch below.

The new songs and collaboration with the SRO were truly rare experiences for fans of The Lonely Forest, and hopefully the next time they perform in Seattle they will come armed with a handful of even more fresh material – but if not, it’s okay; what they displayed at The Neptune Theater proves more will be well worth the wait.

“Be Everything”:


“We Sing In Time”:

(The Lonely Forest videos courtesy of Issaquahwa)

Black Whales by Bebe Besch

Harmonica infused vintage-rock band Black Whales from Seattle took The Neptune’s stage sharp at 9PM to open. Lead singer Alex Robert was positioned far stage right, leaving guitarist Alan Foote plenty of room to get friendly with fans, where he often came forward and even had conversations (sometimes during their songs) with kids in the front row. Though Black Whales’ songs have an upbeat, nearly danceable side with their western-sounding guitar and tambourine efforts, their lyrics can be downright moody. “Elephant #2,” from their 2011 release Shangri-La Indeed, is a great example of these split atmospheres with lyrics such as “What more could you expect?/what more could you do?/It’s just a cab ride from the womb to the tomb.” While Black Whales certainly strive for serious concepts and themes in their songs, it was obvious that for their live performance, it was important to connect and enjoy their time with everyone in The Neptune’s space. See Black Whales next at the Sasquatch Music Festival, and have a look at “Rattle Your Bones” from their performance at The Neptune Theater below:

“Rattle Your Bones”:

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