Espers / Woods / The Cave Singers

  • Brighton
  • United Kingdom
  • The Freebutt
  • 2009-11-18

This year’s Shred Yr Face tour follows the previously two successful editions in presenting three of the more exiting bands from recent alternative American folk scenes, with this time The Cave Singers, Woods and Espers rolling around the UK and in to Brighton’s Freebutt towards the end of the run.

Openers The Cave Singers tell the straightest tales of the three groups, with big-bearded Southern-accented vocals and melodies sometimes stripped down and powerful through repeating simplicity and sometimes backed by a rollicking rhythm section, but with both forms offering warmth and heart. Middle band Woods take on Americana is different however, sometimes wildly, made up of two distinct elements which the two opening tracks show separately (the first style/song a crazed instrumental psych number and the second a sweet, nerdy ditty with soprano vocals) but are mostly offered together. As a whole the band find a successful convergence of garage psych band and lo-fi folk-pop group — no surprise that the group initially played in a garage-like shack smack bang in the middle of the woods. Though initially coming on capturing the crowd with their distinct style, towards the end of a long set the tweeness seemed to turn some off, however for this writer at least there was enough scrawl and scree in the offerings to keep it all from straying into too saccharine territory.

minor/major shifts and Meg Baird’s beautiful whisper-edged vocal

Headlining were Espers, whose recent III album heard them in the main tone down the more lengthy experimental bent of their second record into more instant, manageable folk numbers, keeping the fizzing distorted guitar lines alongside the harmonies and acoustic instruments but working an overall more uplifting mood. Tracks from the new album including summery joint vocal “Caroline”, riff-led folk-rock nugget “I Can’t See Clear” and the more meandering, psych-folk piece “That Which Darkly Thrives” were aired, with II appearing a couple of times as well — “Mansfield and Cyclops” opened the set with its minor/major shifts and Meg Baird’s beautiful whisper-edged vocal. Also making a surprise and welcome inclusion in the set was the group’s take on Blue Oyster Cult’s “Flaming Telepaths” from covers album The Weed Tree, not currently available in the UK though apparently soon to be released over here as the band informed the crowd. Through the seamless inclusion into Espers’ lilting, experimental folk sound of songs such as this which are not normally associated with same mood, that record highlights the group’s keen and earnest approach to their style and craft (also identifiable in the hippy dresses, flared trousers and, unfortunately perhaps, even a male head-scarf) and it is this which is the group’s strength, as because of this they are able offer music which is similarly engrossing for an audience, and although the latest record’s cleaner, simpler approach is perhaps less captivating than its predecessors, this live show helped bring out its more enthralling elements.

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