Folly And The Hunter

support James Gillespie
author TL date 04/10/15 venue Ideal Bar, Copenhagen, DEN

Canadian indie/neo-folk outfit Folly And The Hunter made a good impression in Copenhagen when they played in support of Half Moon Run back in 2013, and considering how enjoyable their 2014 album "Tragic Care" is, it makes sense to see them booked back here again. Except it doesn't. Not right now at least, considering that the band's newest album "Awake" will not be released in Europe until 2016 for some reason, and consequently there has been no press coverage or promotion to draw attention to their arrival. It is a weird timing for a show then, also because tonight is a Sunday, which could cause some concerns over whether the band is known enough here to draw an audience, and whether that audience can be lured off their couches on the last day of the weekend. Luckily however, everything does turn out alright, as Ideal Bar's cozy setting is decently populated with relaxed guests by the time tonight's opening performer takes the stage.

James Gillespie

The task of getting us warmed up has been given to James Gillespie, an acoustic solo performer whose nomadic background proves to have a diverse impact on his pop-songwriter style. Born in England and raised in Scotland, Gillespie takes departure in a traditional folk-ish style, but soon touches of soul and reggae take over while the friendly singer explains how he, for instance, has lived in the Canary Islands, making us a bit less surprised when he suddenly sings bits of lyrics in Spanish.

The songs are fundamentally kept simplistic on the instrumental side, moving along upon rhythmic, staccato chords while Gillespie relies on his considerable prowess as a singer to impress the audience. The sturdy-looking, bearded globetrotter shows off a variety of techniques, both crooning extended passionate notes like a soul singer, and spitting out fast paced syllables to the point of even rapping and channeling some proper reggae vibes. Furthermore, he augments several songs by using a loop pedal to craft extended bridges where he skillfully layers different notes from both his voice and his guitar.

Stock photo of James Gillespie originally by lauramccullagh.com

Throughout the show, the mood is kept light, though, more like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson than say, Glen Hansard or Ben Howard. The sunny vibes and vocal acrobatics are more in focus than deeper lyrical reflections, and towards the end of the half-hour, the repetitive loop pedal exercise does start to wear out its novelty somewhat. The prevailing feeling is that Gillespie is a sympathetic man of considerable musical talent, who yet has some room for improvement in implementing his loops in more diverse ways, and in working out some more thought-provoking lyrics, and getting them to come through more clearly even while he's showing off his amazing singing.

Folly And The Hunter

After just enough of a pause to refresh your beverage, it is time for Folly And The Hunter to step up in front of an Ideal Bar where the tables and seats are now all taken, while handfuls of people have also found standing positions from which to take in the show. The band take their positions on a stage which is crowded by instruments, with drums, two keyboards, a laptop and a number of guitars cluttering up the small space, which is nonetheless adorned with LED chains draped around and upon the band's gear. The group launches into a set comprised of both old and new songs, with the likes of "Vultures", "Moth In The Porch Light" and "Tragic Care" all making appearances from last year's album, while new songs like "Awake" - the only new track currently available in Europe - also hold up a considerable part.

Fortunately, the many layers of the band's atmospheric folk sound come through fairly well in the mix, even if it gets a bit hard to pinpoint the voices in the frequently used four-part vocal harmonies. It's great to hear the mixture of playful drum patterns and blooming ambiances that frames their songs, though, and you can tell from the band's demeanor that they still enjoy building up their sounds, with particularly drummer/pianist Laurie Torres sporting a secretive smile that nonetheless lights up the room. She trades places frequently with Phil Creamer, the two of them taking turns at either handling the drums and glockenspiel or the main keyboard and the extra snare drum set up beside it, while Laurie jokes about littering the whole stage with tissues due to playing through some tour sniffles.

Stock photo of Folly And The Hunter originally by john-londono.com

On the left side of the stage, Christopher Fox sticks in the back, steering the ambiance and playing the occasional bit of electric guitar, while also being the clearest backing voice in the harmony arrangements. In front of him, Nick Vallee leads the band with his somewhat nasal - and bound to be compared to Band Of Horses - vocals, holding up the narrative, while the chords from his hollowbody guitar are often the first to fall below the mix when the band's sound gets most layered. Between songs he appears modest to a fault, yet draws us nearer by telling us of a brief time he actually spent living here in Copenhagen.

Overall, the band recreates their sound deftly here in an intimate live setting, to the crowd's obvious satisfaction judging from the generous applause, which grows during the pauses and eventually calls them back for an encore. There is room for improvement tonight though, although mainly in the details: The layers blur each other out a bit on occasion as mentioned, and Vallee's singing lacks a bit of the fullness you hear in his recorded performance, while his solo encore of Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box" gets somewhat neat and gentle compared to how you like to imagine that song. The band's sound obviously has the potential to fill out much bigger settings however, so give them a bit more confidence and put them back on a stage in front of a crowd that has had a chance to hear their newer material, and it seems likely that they will fulfill most if not all expectations.

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