LIVE REVIEW: Shearwater + Husky @ Bottom of the Hill, SF 7/17/12
As someone who had little to zilch exposure to Shearwater, Husky, or Okkervil River (more on that later), I went into this show with zero expectations. Really, none. I spent my Tuesday at work, musing about the labyrinthine bus ride I would have to take to arrive at Bottom of the Hill (why you so close to Bayview?!) The confident musical mastery and solemnity that Husky and then Shearwater proved carried me along into the nether reaches of fandom.
Husky is an Australian four piece with those yearning, searing melodies that are made for contemplative escape drives. Their debut full-length album, Forever So, was released by Sub Pop, and even their bio admits “you probably haven’t heard of Husky before now.” Their sound resonated perfectly with the mixed crowd of 20s-30s-40-somethings, despite any age gaps. The frontman, Husky Gawenda, reminded me of a skinnier, more attractive Zach Galifianakis around the eyes and other facial region bits. Yes, it did make him instantly more endearing. Towards the end of the set keyboardist Gideon Preiss took a solo with enough arpeggios and chord progressions that it shut up even the rowdy bar enthusiasts in the back. No easy feat.
Next up was Shearwater, a band irrevocably tied to Okkervil River because two of the members founded it, Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff. Sheff is no longer in Shearwater and after 8 full-length albums, it is clear Shearwater is a unique sonic identity. When I wasn’t taken aback by the falsetto notes held for 30 seconds or more, it was the kaleidoscope of facial expressions that cracked me up. I’ve never seen a man look sultry, pissed, lonely, and omniscient in so little time. It made sense when a half hour into the set, he took a breath and laughed, “I’m kind of fucked up. I don’t think I’ve ever played a show in this state before. [pause] And I don’t just mean California.” Another band member riffed, “they know what you mean.” I was charmed; everyone was charmed. Playing songs primarily from their newest album Animal Joy (also released by Sup Pop) or their ’08 release Rook, my Shearwater introduction was wonderfully, jarringly noisy. I was sardined by devoted fans in a gorgeously layered wall of sound, blasting us out of the everyday milieu of a Tuesday night.
Click here for more photos of Shearwater with Husky at Bottom of the Hill.