The Dutchess and the Duke
Wednesday, April 13, 2008
By Jennifer Maerz
Better than: She & Him, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Mom & Dad
Few acts can say screw the microphones and play an entire set truly acoustically without sounding like some crap hippie coffeehouse folk act. But Seattle's the Dutchess and the Duke are something special, and they pulled off that decision with aplomb. Last night at Rickshaw stop, the duo paired up with Oakland local Oscar Michel (Gris Gris) on percussion to bring home the casual grit and intimacy of their excellent recent album, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke.
Of course, the microphone-less set wasn't a planned decision: a couple songs in, the mics wouldn't stop feeding back, so the duo, armed with acoustic guitars, pushed them aside and the 200 or so folks in the crowd pushed closer to the stage to hear better. As on their recording, Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison need little in the way of flourish, as all the creaks and cracks that creep into their songs only add to the sweet 'n' rough aesthetic of their lonesome Stones-y ditties.
Live, the couple of garage rockers (who are married, but not to one another) took pulls from a bottle of wine (Lortz kept the cork in his pocket), whistled their tunes, and told the crowd, "This is the kind of song you normally could clap along to, but if you clap you won't be able to hear the song." Meanwhile Michel kept time with a tambourine ("I was great in Brian Jonestown Massacre," he quipped), reading from notes scribbled on an old bike receipt.
The whole performance gave new dimension to what's become one of my favorite records of the year. The interactions within the band, the way Morrison laughed through some of the songs, and the way the singers' voices hit such honeyed harmonies, it was the perfect mix of a drunken late night jam and heartfelt songs about longing sung with an attitude that nothing's precious but some things are definitely delicate. That last bit was most true when the band started in on "I Am Just a Ghost," the vocals as much of a whisper as the person describing being invisible in the song. Of course the track built to the point where Michel lost the top of his maraca (I think that was the song) but with this act, even the act of falling apart is less something tragic and more something that just makes you smile and sing along.
By the way: The Dutchess and the Duke just returned from a big tour with a current Seattle favorite, the Fleet Foxes (they opened for that band recently in S.F.)