Live review: Wye Oak @ the Larimer LoungeBy Billy Thieme and Nathan Armes | April 4th, 2011 | 2 comments
At the Larimer Lounge on Saturday night, Jenn Wasner mentioned that she and bandmate Andy Stack of the Baltimore band Wye Oak, were tired. And justifiably so, having come from Salt Lake City that day, and in the very beginning of a 10-day stretch of their current tour that travels through the midwest and up into Montreal before they get a night off.
This apparent exhaustion, however, didn’t seem to make any difference in the duo’s performance.
A more valid reason the two should be tired, in fact, was the fury and passion they poured into an hour-long set. Often lumped in with indie or folk rock bands, presumably due to a tendency to alternate between screeching distortion and sparse minimalism on record, the pair was anything but mere folk that night. Wasner wailed meditations on solitude, love and aloneness and masterfully wrangled her guitar, while Stack covered the rest. Stack’s ability to multi-task the entire balance of such a huge sound — playing a trap set with both feet and his right hand while pounding on keyboards for both bass and melody with his left — was stunning to watch.
While their overall timbre hovered around that of bands like Low, there was an added, almost ominous blues-y quality behind Wasner’s guitar chunk that begged for comparison to the Black Keys. The performance also reflected a deep familiarity with the frenetic pop of Merge labelmates Superchunk, just a little slower and more comfortable. Her vocals and some songs’ constructions also recalled Beach House and Heartless Bastards, which lent the set a sweet consistency that belied its lyrical heaviness.
The moaning confessional “That I Do,” from 2009’s “The Knot,” was exemplary. Wasner made the uncomfortable story about a relationship’s bitter disintegration almost an afterthought each time she stepped away from the mic stand and blasted the audience with brilliant, ardent axework. Later, her solo performance of the sparse “Doubt” from this year’s “Civilian,” pulled the atmosphere in the venue down close, like blankets over the audience, and then she brought us all with her into an intimate and protected space, hanging onto the arpeggiated chords.