I was really looking forward to this show, The last time I saw the Bowerbirds they were great, they had a minimal setup and the audience so quiet you could hear the pump of the accordion. They didn't even need mics, Phil was singing into the space, punctuating louder parts, stepping away slightly and belting out vocals.
Now I'm sure I'm romanticizing, that's the curse of a new album, a new band, the first show I see
Are they doomed to suck after a show like that? But they're still touring with their first album, so I expected something of a repeat performance, the audience has had an extra year to listen to their material and sing it by heart. Which someone next to me managed to do for a few verses of every song. It was fucking maddening.
That brings me to my next problem/question. Can an audience ruin a band?
Can they be such douche's that they can ruin not only the experience that night but then reflect badly on the band itself and retroactively change the way you feel?
I'm leaning towards yes.
There was a group of dicks literally talking through the entire show like no one else was there. Do you think you earned the right to fucking have a little party because you bought a ticket? Should everyone else just be lucky to have you there? You missed the whole show...what were you doing there? Sometimes you just get the feeling the crowd is just weird and full of first dates or people looking to like cool music, this band was in Elle magazine or something?
And I really debated if I'm just getting old, which again the answer is yes.
But were they promoted in certain ways, to a certain audience? An audience that I don't agree with and this makes them ruin the band?
And their new material.... it's bordering on alt country like Band of Horses or god forbid...Wilco. It's that middle of the road, just boring instrumentation. Slow rock, no chorus...even if I could pay attention, I just didn't care...at least it stopped the singing along.
So what specifically went wrong?
I think they took their formula, which I would never think of putting into an Alt-country category, that middle of the road slow rock. and expanded it in the most obvious way. They added a bass player, and new drummer who was playing with a standard kit, and it just sounded louder and muddy, too much going on, layers not adding anything. Was that just because they wanted to tour with these musicians specifically? Were they friends from an opening band? I'm not quite sure what was going on, except the old drummer left I guess, and took a lot with him.
I'm a huge fan of their album Hymns for a Dark Horse. Lyrically it's genius, it's really beautiful sounding, the melodies never match in obvious ways. The guitar is going completely other places. Every chorus you want to sing along to, it's hushed like a bedroom recording, it's really intimate. So I'll always have that, I just won't want to pay money to see them.
Was I ruined because I had seen them under better circumstances? And was I partially an idiot not to move somewhere else?
I think Yes to both.
Here's the show EP 51, Bowerbirds at Mercury Lounge.
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