Reviews

Hold On Love

Author: Jason C. Jones
12/01/2003 | In Your Ear | www.in-your-ear.net | Live Show Preview
Solar Culture isn't like any other venue in town, and if you've never been, you owe it to yourself to visit sometime. You don't have to go for a show—it's an art gallery too, you see, and there's enough cool stuff on the walls to keep you looking for at least half an hour. While you're there you may notice that there's no bar. Believe it or not, this is actually a selling point for most of its patrons, and it was certainly a huge contributor to the wonderful atmosphere at the Crooked Fingers show last month.

I've been an Azure Ray fan for a little over a year, since I saw them play Solar Culture with Now It's Overhead. That show was the first time I'd seen two successive bands have the same four members—when Now It's Overhead finished, they shuffled their equipment around the stage a bit, and Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor took the mikes instead of Now It's Overhead's singer.

David Dondero's opening set was eerily moving. His band was a three-piece—himself singing and playing guitar or bass, with a drummer and a lap steel guitarist. It was a charming kind of Americana, with an almost Jeff Buckley-like flair for the dramatic.

Azure Ray followed, in their own subdued fashion. It seems that they subscribe to John Cage-like minimalism in their live performances, standing as still as possible and singing in barely a whisper.

If the show had been anywhere else, their voices would have been drowned out by clinking glasses, conversation and amp hiss, but Solar Culture's setup was more than up to the task of picking up their muted sound, and the audience in attendance was so quiet and respectful that they seemed awed by the musicians in front of them. Azure Ray's set was dominated by tracks from their new Saddle Creek release, Hold on Love, and while there wasn't a lot of energy in their performance, their Southern charm and inspired songwriting was clearly evident.

Crooked Fingers turned out to be the keyboard player, drummer and bassist that backed Azure Ray on some of their songs, plus both Orenda and Maria of Azure Ray, helping out on guitar, bass, keyboard or trumpet, as necessary. Singer Eric Bachmann was all over the stage, playing keyboard and guitar while singing and, for one song, singing solo into a megaphone.

Their songs were varied and interesting, with everything from a standup bass to a lap steel guitar to a xylophone sprucing up the mix, and through it Bachmann's captivating voice, carrying a tune with such inflection and expression that I had to have his record.

The show was helped immesurably by a respectful, quiet, sober crowd and a fantastic sound system that picked up all the nuances of the quiet songs and remained clean for the (admittedly few) hard moments.

More shows should be this good.
Hold On Love

Hold On Love

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