Dry The River

support I´m All Ears
author TL date 01/12/12 venue BETA, Copenhagen, DEN

More than enough people reach the month of December and welcome it by looking forward to the days in its twenties, when holidays and family feasts come around. For me however, Christmas comes early on December 1st, as I've looked forward to seeing Dry The River - one of England's finest new folk-rock exports and authors of an album that looks to be ranked high on my upcoming best of 2012 list - ever since catching their mesmerising mid-day performance at this year's Roskilde Festival. And for once my excitement for a band has not put me in a scattered minority, because Beta has long since reported itself as sold out for the show, so with one of Copenhagen's cosiest music venues gradually filling up and with me having put myself in position to also control tonight's virtual turntable (if you heard something you like, the songs can be found in a spotify playlist here), is it really any wonder that there's a good mood about, both with myself and in the venue in general? I see no coincidence there. The only variable would be tonight's support band, whom I am still perfectly unfamiliar with as they take the stage around 10 PM.

All photos courtesy of Thomas Dyregaard from Musikhavn.dk

I'm All Ears

I'm All Ears, as tonight's warm-up is called, are a quartet from Aarhus who do not look like coordinating their wardrobes is high on their agenda, with the three members I can see over the shoulders of my fellow crowd looking an odd ensemble. The singer/bassist sports the stereotypical short, open leather jacket, while the lead guitarist rocks a blazer and neater overall look and the rhythm guitarist/keyboardist looks like he belongs in a more casual band with his beard, long hair and scarf. Don't get me wrong, I don't make note of this because I think looks matter very much in bands, but it does strengthen the impression one gets when the guys start playing their music, which sounds like various indie-rock trends pieced together in a manner that seems a little confused. The Strokes and Vampire Weekend come to mind during some parts but a clear identity generally seems to be out of focus. The stylistic confusion (in sound and looks) gives an impression of a band that might be a bit young, and this feeling is fortified as the band struggles in a number of departments: Their singing sounds less that confident both in lead vocals and harmonies, their songs are overly simple and poppy and their lyrics come across as rather trivial. It's a shame because between songs the band come off as genuine, friendly guys as they have some laid back fun among themselves and with the audience, but despite the polite applause from the benevolent guests, things feel a bit awkward to anyone in the room who habitually visits concerts, when the band tries to breathe emotion and energy into material that clearly is simpler than Guitar Hero on 'Beginner' and into lyrical content which begs descriptives like 'shallow', 'obvious' and 'dull'. Points are awarded for a good-natured, extroverted stage behaviour, but in terms of the actual music, I have to say I think I'm All Ears have a long way to go before they merit any interest at all. Sorry guys.

Dry The River's Peter Liddle

Dry The River

After the changeover Beta's concert room is indeed more full than I think I've ever seen it and people are clearly not here by coincidence as Dry The River are welcomed by generous cries of approval from the moment they step on stage. The first half of the show consists of performances of "Shield Your Eyes", "New Ceremony", "History Book" and "Demons" and from the first note of the former it becomes clear just why Dry The River are so enchanting, with their tender melodies growing increasingly more intricate and elegant over the course of each song and the gentle vocal harmonies sounding even more amazing in the live setting. Sadly, the immersive sense of magic I got from the band's louder parts at Roskilde Festival remains absent here, as the small room and humble sound system struggle to accomodate the full range of nuances Dry The River work with at their most climactic post-rock-ish, but the general impression is that people here have looked forward to this enough to let this slide and they respond both by singing along spiritedly and by occasionally airing cries along the lines of "YEEES!" or "This is SO good!".

While the band remains in the stratosphere of "good" when playing at their loudest tonight though, they only appear increasingly amazing the more quiet they play. This is underscored perfectly as the first verse of the fantastic "Weights And Measures" is sung without aid from microphones, coming out unbelievably frail and beautiful in its harmonies and perfectly setting up the return of amplification as the song climbs towards its highly strung conclusion. Having elevated the crowd to this cloud of elation the band wisely follow with the equally dramatic "No Rest", before taking things down briefly with "Bible Belt". All the while songs have been separated by grounded, humourus exchanges between lead singer/guitarist Peter Liddle, bassist Scott Miller and the audience, with the band halfway joking, halfway apologising for having a short set based on their limited amount of material and promising that they'll try to come back next year with one more album in the bag.

The regular set ends predictably with another climb to the cathartic heights of "Lion's Den", but with the set still feeling young and with most of the crowd clearly having read about previous shows in advance, nobody on the floor is content without an encore, as the steady waves of clapping, shouting, whistling and floor-stomping is evidence of. So Dry The River naturally come back shortly after, proclaiming themselves tired after the exercise of "Lion's Den" and hence intending to venture down to the floor and play the last song entirely unplugged. As casual and low-key as this may read to the uninitiated, the resulting experience is simply breathtaking, as people almost neglect breathing trying to stay silent as the band performs "Shaker Hymns" on about one square metre of space, with people surrounding them on all sides and with the most unbelievable exhibition of their skill at vocal harmonies and delicate guitar/violin interplay closing the night off. Compared to the band's Roskilde performance, I'm a bit disappointed to not be rocked as deep in my core by the band's loudest parts, but in a tit for tat way, the intimate quality allowed the quiet parts in this setting to still make this a show of the very, very unusual kind. So what I'm saying is you should really catch this band in venues of this size while you still can.

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