Crotales, and zither, and cell phones – Oh my!

The Low Anthem + Timber Timbre – The Bell House – April 16

Friday night’s show at the Bell House may have been ‘sold out,’ but the large floor space was only sparsely populated at the beginning of Timber Timbre’s (pronounced Timber Tamber) set. The evening got off to a slow, melodic start. With hardly an introduction, Timber Timbre began playing “No Bold Villain.” First, just the violin, guitar, and pedal steel (played with a bow) quietly came together, but eventually the bass drum came in and established a slow, pulsating beat. “No Bold Villain” was  a bit of an odd choice to open the show. It is a slow, ambling song, and the final track on the group’s self-titled album.

Timber Timbre

Timber Timbre played a few songs in succession without so much as a pause between them, but they seemed to flow together. Eventually the audience took advantage of a beat, and a round of applause quickly erupted, causing the band to pause and introduce themselves. But unfortunately, this pause also prompted the crowd to lose interest, and many people began to talk unabashedly by the time the band launched into “Demon Host.”

Front man Taylor Kirk may sing about haunting topics like ghosts,séances, graves, and decomposition, but the band could not keep the audience under their spell. The music was rather subdued – and not just because of the subject matter. The levity that seems to mark their self-titled album was absent from their performance, and the dark lighting on stage  (Kirk especially was hidden in shadows) seemed to create a wall between the band and the audience. Timber Timbre may have a delightfully spooky album, but sadly their live show was rather lackluster on Friday night.

Feeding off the spooky vibe created Timber Timbre, The Low Anthem kicked off their set with a song that prominently featured ghosts.

Throughout The Low Anthem’s set, the four (sometimes five) performers ran around on stage between songs, each juggling multiple instruments. In addition to having a solid voice, Jocie Adams in particular seemed to play everything: the clarinet, crotales, drums, saw, bass, and more. (1)

The Low Anthem

Unlike Timber Timbre, The Low Anthem seemed to effortlessly hold the audience at attention and often broke down the third wall to interact with the crowd. For “This God Damn House,” they elicited the audience to directly contribute. Before the song, we were instructed to whip out our cell phones near the song’s conclusion, call the person we had come to the show with, put the phones on speakerphone, and hold them up close to each other. The noise made by the phones – a quiet kind of feedback – sounded like ghost crickets, and the effect made me giddy.

Check out a video of the song “This God Damn House” here (complete with the cell phone trick):

The Low Anthem played a mix of traditional and original songs. Another highlight of the show was “Sally, Where’d You Get Your Liquor From” (listen). Their music covers a range of sounds and genres, including Americana and folk, but there is also a fair amount of soul – especially in “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around.” Their quieter songs may be sleepy, but they still manage to be engaging.

After a solid set, the group bowed (those with hats on briefly removed them in keeping with good Southern manners), and they walked off stage, only to be welcomed back for a three-song encore that wrapped up with the raucous and upbeat number “The Horizon is a Beltway.”

(1) It turns out Adams also “spent summers working an infrared spectrometer at NASA.” Wow. (For more info, go here.)


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"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."

- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being


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