April 4, 2010

From SXSW to Castaways

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So that big deal of a musical gathering known as South by Southwest happened a few weeks ago in Austin, Tex. and in the aftermath, buzz is afloat for a few bands, which could rocket them to the big time of the indie world. This is really just to say that music obsessives, like myself, now have our spring listening albums picked out for us. But anyways, of the thousands of bands that performed during those four days in Texas, one band in particular was drooled over by everyone from Stephen Thompson of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” to The Sun’s own Maurice Chammah ’10. The band is Baltimore’s own Wye Oak and the duo just happened to descend upon Ithaca this past Friday, making a stop downtown at Castaways as the opener for the Shearwater concert –– and whoa, how the crowd immediately fell in love with them.

I had heard nothing of Wye Oak’s sound besides what critics had gushed about, so I attended the show based on recommendation alone. Consequently, when Wye Oak took the stage and sounds of gigantic proportions came from the mere two instrumentalists, Jenn Wasner on guitar and Andy Stack on drums or keyboard, I was added to list of critics who were extremely impressed.

There was no bass to be found but it sure sounded like there was one hidden on stage. And this noise that enveloped the less than crowded audience was reminiscent of a ’90s female folk singer-songwriter meets a garage band. It was as if Paula Cole fronted Sleater-Kinney –– gorgeously sung rock. The sound was a perfect reflection of Wasner’s appearance: blonde girl-next-door but with biceps tattoos. Within moments the crowd all developed a throbbing crush on the expressive singer, myself very much included.

There were also moments when the voluminous music slowed and calmed, yet only to crescendo into sensational melodies more commandeering than what is expected from a five-piece band. In fact, that is exactly what happened on Friday night. Wye Oak’s set completely awed the audience in comparison to headliner and five-piece group, Shearwater. Needless to say, the Baltimore-based twosome, blew me away.

I wasn’t planning to write about the show, so I didn’t keep close tabs on the songlist, but after the set when my friend purchased their CD (I know, who does that anymore?) Wasner informed us (for the record: nicest and most grateful lead singer on the planet) that most of the tunes came from their latest release, sophomore album, The Knot, which came out last July. The album has a 75, or “generally favorable reviews” according to metacritic, which leads me to believe that Wye Oak will be riding their success via their live performances –– no surprise as they were able to stand out amongst thousands of groups at the SXSW festival. So moral of the story is this: Friday night you should have been at Castaways and it’s a shame you weren’t, so instead go online and check out this phenomenal duo. And bonus moral: Now I can be added to the growing list of critics who need to wipe the slobber off of their cheeks from having witnessed an awesome live show by Wye Oak.

Original Author: Justine Fields