Thursday, April 8th, 2010
Megafaun and Sharon Van Etten at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangAnd to think, I almost stayed home to watch The Pacific. What can I say? Some nights I’m just lazy. But thankfully, I managed to haul my ass out of the apartment on Monday night to head down to the Horseshoe for what would turn out to be a pretty special show from Megafaun and Sharon Van Etten.
It was Van Etten who was the main draw for me – her 2009 debut Because I Was In Love is more beguiling with every listen and my first attempt to see her live at SxSW wasn’t satisfactory thanks to an overly chatty crowd and uncooperative guitar amp. Background chatter wasn’t an issue on this night, though, as the crowd at the ‘Shoe was decidedly sparse when Van Etten took the stage armed only with her Gibson ES-135, her songs and her voice.
And oh, what a voice. So powerful and yet so fragile, overtop her fingerpicked guitarwork and wrapped around her sad songs, it pulled everyone in the house – hell, it probably pulled bystanders in off the street – closer and closer, until most were seated on the floor around the stage, enraptured. They’d have had to be under the influence of something to be willing to sit on the Horseshoe floor – have you ever seen that thing under house lights? But kidding aside, Van Etten’s set – her last of this short tour and for the next while as she works on her second album – was a stunner, including both songs from Love and new material, capped off with a finale of “Tornado”, backed up be Megafaun. And as perfectly suited as her material is to solo performance – sadness is a solitary thing, after all – it sounded as good if not better with a band behind it.
Said band also sounded pretty good on their own, as it turned out. I wasn’t especially familiar with Megafaun coming into the night – I think I’d spun their latest album Gather, Form & Fly once or twice – but went in with an open mind and proceeded to have it blown, just a little. As befit their North Carolina roots, the impressively-bearded trio – two brothers and their drummer – crafted folk-rock with a distinctively southern drawl, but beneath that genial, harmony-laden surface there was so much more going on. There was jazz virtuosity in their musicianship, proggish ambitions in the frequently twisty song structures and a jam band’s delight in simply playing. That delight was shared in full by the small but devoted audience, and that gave the show less the feel of a concert than an intimate get-together of friends. Nowhere was this more evident than the encore, which Megafaun seemed almost embarrassed to be taking – climbing down off the stage and playing three more songs amongst their fans. All throughout the night, the band emphasized how much they were enjoying the evening and how exceptionally special this show was. For some acts, this is boilerplate stage banter but it was obvious from the looks on their faces and the hugs exchanged with fans afterwards, that they meant every word and every note. Just marvelous.
The Concordian talks to Megafaun’s Phil Cook and Daytrotter has posted a session with the band. Their North American tour continues through the end of April – do see them if you can. They’re also releasing a new mini-album entitled Heretofore later this Summer – info at Pitchfork.
Photos: Megafaun, Sharon Van Etten @ The Horseshoe – April 5, 2010
MP3: Megafaun – “Volunteers”
MP3: Megafaun – “The Fade”
MP3: Megafaun – “Kaufman’s Ballad”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Consolation Prize”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”
Video: Megafaun – “Impressions Of The Past”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MySpace: Sharon Van Etten
NYC Taper is sharing a recording of Wilco’s epic three-hour set in Montclair, New Jersey from last weekend. The band just announced they will curate their own festival – the Solid Sound Festival – from August 13 to 15 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams Massachusetts, which if you were wondering is at the border of Mass and New York, about 7 hours from Toronto. The bill will feature Wilco, natch, and most/all of their spin-off acts and other artists to be announced later.
Rawkblog, SF Weekly and CMJ have interviews with Miles Kurosky while The Bay Bridged gets Kurosky back together with some of his Beulah bandmates to play songs from his solo record The Desert Of Shallow Effects, which are available to download.
For Folks Sake and The New York Times talk to Laura Marling, while La Blogotheque is offering a live track for download. Her new album I Speak Because I Can gets a North American release as of this week.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel, who impressed whilst opening for Laura Marling back in February, has a date scheduled for the Drake Underground on May 30. His new record In Memory Of Loss is out April 27.