Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Great American Music Hall
Better than: There's a fine line these days between jam bands and folk-leaning rock bands with guitar riffs that linger like the scent of patchouli. Vetiver loosens the reins without awakening the Dead too much.
There's a new lightness to Vetiver's material, a breezy happy-go-luckiness that adds a chipper pace and attitude to the local band's latest record, Tight Knit. So even as the group furthers its forays into soft rock, there's a kick to its songs, an infectious giddiness that's evident in singles like "Everyday" (the track with the hilarious video above), one of the many new tunes that lived up to the album title as Andy Cabic and company took them out for a spin from the Great American stage last night.
Vetiver's put a lot of work into its latest Sub Pop release. Cabic, the group's floppy-hatted bandleader, told the crowd that he'd been touring for two months straight (he later amended that to add most of the rooms Vetiver played were so small there wasn't a backstage area to walk off to before the encore). The result of paying so much attention to the Tight Knit catalog? Songs like "More of This" and "Sister" were given new life as Vetiver showed those tracks could transition live from easygoing recordings to energetic set staples. Even slightly older songs (that, say, reminisce on the good days to daydream over a fishing rod like "I Must Be In A Good Place Now") incited intense nods to the beat from the fans.
After jamming through those upbeat bits, Vetiver segued into something of a mellow lady medley, jumping back into favorites about women named Maureen and Maria. It's here that the enthusiasm from the crowd started to sap. They're great songs, but live they lulled the mood, the slow, dreamy pace thinning the crowd out a little more as the evening went on.
While the band stayed on the whole performance, Cabic chatting up the crowd like we were just his buddies crammed into the Hemlock, the more introspective ditties begged for a room with more candlelit cocktail tables, where fans could absorb golden love songs like "Been So Long" off their feet. (In line for the bathroom I actually saw people doing yoga stretches to try and coax their legs into remaining in a standing position for the rest of the show.)
With a Townes Van Zandt cover ("Standin'" which they also recorded for Things Of the Past) towards the end and a couple boosts of excitement for the encore numbers, Vetiver's set was sandwiched by tunes to keep the crowd invested but sagged a little in the middle. It's just too bad some of those quieter tracks don't translate as well to being played back-to-back in a giant music hall, where their gorgeous subtleties can get lost.
By the way: The crowd definitely leaned towards the fashion conscious. Despite the earthy leanings of the headliner, people dressed to the hipster-hippie nines, throwing on flamboyant ponchos, lacy baby doll dresses with heels, beaded headbands, and the like.
Personal bias: I've given opener Richard Swift a chance on disc and live now, but his easy listening is far too inert.