LIVE: Darlingside @ The Egg, 12/8/17
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Man, these guys are quiet! During Darlingside’s headlining set at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre last Friday I mused that they had to be the quietest band with amplification I have seen in all my years of gig going. It was actually refreshing. Many bands have confused volume with excitement. “Full of sound and fury yet signifying nothing,” as the Bard put it. There is no fury in Darlingside’s sound. Rather, words like “wistful” and “enchanting” come to mind.
The four members – Dave Senft (bass, percussion), Don Mitchell (guitar, banjo), Auyon Mukharji (violin, mandolin), Harris Paseltiner (guitar, cello), all four sing – gather round a shared condenser microphone & perform in a tightly knit huddle center stage.
Their music is hard to define. NPR described it as “baroque folk pop,” and I think that’s as good a term as any. At times echoes of their parents’ record collections can be heard – some Simon & Garfunkel here, a hint of CSNY there. Probably the nearest contemporary comparison would be with the Fleet Foxes.
Their set consisted of the band’s original material played before a hushed and reverent crowd. There was obviously a friends ‘n’ family vibe present, the audience knowing the older repertoire and very supportive to hear three new numbers from the forthcoming album Extralife, slated for release in February. The new songs had an extra sonic flavor with the addition of a sequencer adding Kraftwerk-like synth lines.
But Darlingside’s trademark sound is their vocal harmonies, and they were at times exquisite. Their crystalline voices hung like fragile gossamer in the air. Yeah I know I’m getting all flowery, but they’re that kind of a band. Their on stage banter is similarly languid and laid back. Their good natured, nerdy anecdotes concerning their travel to the gig, their tastes in McDonald’s and Kombucha and their sorely tested love for “The Nutcracker” were lapped up by the like-minded crowd. Imagine a band comprised of “Jeopardy” contestants (the polite ones, not the pushy ones), and you have an idea of Darlingside’s collective persona.
Opening act was Front Country from San Francisco, now based in Nashville. They performed a hugely enjoyable energetic set of bluegrass with a definite rock edge. The quartet – Melody Walker (vocals, guitar, percussion), Adam Roszkiewicz (mandolin), Jacob Groopman (guitar), Jeremy Darrow (upright bass) and Leif Carlstrom (violin) – mixed bright originals with covers relevant to this day & age, including Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi” and David Olney’s prophetic “Millionaire.”
In Walker, Front Country has a real ace in the pack, a dynamic singer with an appealingly bluesy edge to her voice. They also went down well with the enthusiastic crowd.
Special thanks to my daughter Genevieve for introducing me to both of these fine bands – an excellent night of acoustic music pushing the boundaries of folk.
Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette