Live Review: Bowerbirds, Megafaun @ The Earl, August 17

[ 0 ] August 25, 2009 |

Bowerbirdsjpg Review and photos by Julia Reidy

If there had been wires running from the instruments
Megafaun (pictured below) and Bowerbirds (three shots, above) played onstage, from their faces and hands to the eyes
and ears of everyone in the crowd, you would’ve seen bursts of green light,
energy snapping and crackling along the lines all night. That’s how electric
the show was. Both acts couldn’t have given more.

Megafaun, up first, just didn’t want to stay plugged in.
Rather than pulling his banjo’s cord out gently, Phil Cook would rip free of
his restraint and bound in one stride to the front of the stage or out into the
audience. All three — Phil, his brother Brad, and drummer Joe Westerlund — walked
around singing joyously among the crowd members. Standouts included “Kaufman’s
Ballad,” “Columns” and “The Fade” as they meshed Americana with noisy electronic feedback and
experimental sound collages. The last song of Megafaun’s all-too-short set was
an unplugged number where they perched at the very front of the stage and sang
straight to the audience, who watched them with awe-struck, upturned faces.

Megafaun1

If I was in Bowerbirds, I wouldn’t have wanted to follow
Megafaun’s stunning show. But the members “Bow Bow Tribe,” joined by Megafaun
bassist Brad Cook, are no slouches themselves. They split their set pretty
evenly between material from their beautiful debut Hymns For A Dark Horse and this year’s Upper Air, leading off with “Hooves.” They played “Matchstick
Maker,” from Hymns’ extended release,
a nostalgic, poetically impactful song, more even than all their other poignant
pieces. Beth Tacular, though she often takes a backseat to Phil Moore’s spot as
acoustic-wielding frontman, is the true magic behind Bowerbirds. She switched
between keys and accordion, always cutting through the arrangements with her
clear, saccharine voice.

For the final song, all the members of Bowerbirds and
Megafaun had us make a big circle around them in the center of the venue’s
floor. From there they covered a number by fellow North Carolina band The Rosebuds. Then they
played “My Oldest Memory” from Hymns
fully acoustic and un-mic-ed. Moore sang solo for the verses, but when the
chorus came, not only did all the other musicians join him in elaborate vocal
harmonies, but the audience did their part, too, tapping bottles together
(“tink-tink-tink,” quickly, like they did in that Take-Away show where The
National played “Start A War”), singing sweetly along, snapping fingers. It was
one of those magical moments, the satisfying end of a month-and-a-half-long
tour together for them, and a special treat for us.

Category: Live Reviews

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