Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Said the Whale, Fargo, Bryn Rich at Bottom Lounge, 7/17/13

By Rob Ryan

Said the Whale (photo by Will Thwaites)
"No one in here looks like they can legally drink," I say to my friend Will with a condescending tone. "Screw it, I'll drink for them."

We had just arrived at the Bottom Lounge to see Said the Whale and the initial crowd was far from stellar. On a Wednesday in July, I should have foreseen as much but I didn't. I came to see Said the Whale and I was expecting great things from them, especially since their song "I Love You" has been getting major buzz. That was about the only thing I was expecting.

The Bottom Lounge had Three Floyds on tap so I was able to follow through with my initial quest. The opening act came on as I acquired my first beer. "Bryn Rich, huh? Let's see what this guy can do," I think to myself.

Turns out he can do quite a bit.

Bryn Rich (photo by Will Thwaites)
I was immediately surprised by his stage presence. Bryn does not shy away from attention, nor should he. His musical talent is clear to see in both guitar playing and song writing, which is arguably his best skill.

In my opinion, lyrics are an afterthought in music today. When an artist or band can keep me listening to a song simply because of the words, I take notice. Bryn is one of those artists. However, I couldn't help shake the thought that he needed a band behind him to truly shine. One man and a guitar can only go so far.

I finished my second beer as Bryn thanked the growing crowd. Fargo was the next act up. "Fargo? I guess they liked the movie," I hypothesize aloud to Will. He dismisses me with a shrug.

When the band took the stage, I was a bit worried. They looked nervous, which was understandable for a group of college kids from the Chicago suburbs. Their first song was a bit robotic as well and my hopes were fading fast. Then they hit their stride and the highlight of the night emerged.

Lead singer Ryan Thomas has a unique and shrill voice that gives the band's sound personality, something that their type of experimental rock needs. Thomas's energy is also something to note. It's not hard to miss though since he attacks the mic with vocal fervor. "They're like an Alt-J without the drugs...or a young Radiohead," Will observes.

Fargo (photo by Will Thwaites)
Bass player Brandon Cantwell also stood out. Quality bass guitar players are hard to come by but Fargo definitely has one. As part of the backbone of a band's sound, the bass guitar rarely has the chance to take over a song. However, Cantwell proved that the bass guitar is more than capable of taking the lead.

"I'll need to keep my eye on these guys," I say as I leave to get another beer. Fargo has great potential. The only question is if they'll dedicate themselves to their music long term.

Said the Whale (photo by Will Thwaites)
By the time Said the Whale came on for sound-check, the crowd had grown impressively. I've lost count of the beer tally at this point. Drummer Spencer Schoening walks out with a Flaming Lips t-shirt on and I nod my head in approval. After a few minutes, Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft walk up to their mics and Said the Whale launches into their set.

Unlike the young guns of Fargo, Said the Whale had a much more cohesive stage presence. You could tell that the band had been playing together for some time. It's a great thing to watch, a band with good internal rapport.

About halfway through the set, guitarist and co-lead singer Tyler Bancroft paused and acknowledged the crowd. "We were not expecting so many people to come out tonight. We are very very fucking uncool. But in a cool way." Laughter broke out and a few people cheered with disagreement.

As they started "I Love You" to close out the night, I tried to pin point Said the Whale's style. Nothing could come to me. Hailing from Canada, they definitely have a folk flare and their lyrics are rustic through and through. However, they are not afraid to show their raw side. I was actually surprised by how heavy their live sound was compared to the recordings they've put out so far.

Expectations can be a funny thing. Said the Whale was fantastic. Canada may have something on its hands here. But I was not surprised by their performance like the previous two acts. I came to the Bottom Lounge expecting to see an amazing band in Said the Whale and that is exactly what I got. Perhaps I'm not being fair. There's still something of significance in the fact that the only song from the night that was stuck in my head the next day was Said the Whale's "I Love You."

1 comment:

  1. Fargo doesn't disappoint. Their sound is truly captivating. I also agree; Ryan Thomas is definitely reminiscent of a young Thom Yorke.