Josiah Wolf, The Gloaming, if and it, DJ pEACEFANg
SPACE Gallery; June 26, 2011
It was a quiet Sunday night and my expectations were low. I found myself at SPACE Gallery with maybe 20 or 30 other people, about half of them under 21, judging by the wristbands. DJ pEACEFANg was spinning vinyl and queuing mp3s in the perch, and heads were nodding in rhythmic approval. His first set of the night was mostly Neptunes-esque break beats with mellow organ tones, but he would later reveal a taste in dance music and down-tempo reggae.
The boy/girl duo that comprises The Gloaming took the stage next and dropped to their knees, like kids in a playroom getting down to business. Both live and prerecorded break beats drive their relentless homegrown pop — during peaks, they sounded like The Magnetic Fields fronted by Spongebob Squarepants. They both tinkered on chintzy keyboards and chanted melodic refrains with the exuberance of a newbie band still unsure of its sound. It seemed like they doubted themselves at times, but they needn’t have — their music carried its own weight and the audience ate it up.
The Portland band if and it has a really laidback manner. They launched into some easy Americana with a garage edge. The songs were tight, and the wordy, lyrical songwriting of guitarist/vocalist Evan Parker’s is strong. His voice was confident, commanding, and perfectly common — an everyman putting on a rock show with his friends. Drummer Chris Dibiasio and bassist Tim Walker provided excellent rhythm, and Walker’s occasional background harmonies gave the songs extra grit.
The headliners were another boy/girl duo, but of a much larger scope. Headliner Josiah Wolf plays drums regularly in the band WHY? (who are definitely worth checking out), and has recorded as a solo artist for many years. He has partnered with Liz Hodson, who has previously worked with WHY?’s California music collective, Anticon, and the duo recorded a covers EP (featuring material ranging from Bill Withers to Nirvana) that’s available on their bandcamp site.
The duo were comfortable and friendly on stage, eager to keep the good vibes of the night rolling. They utilized their many instruments to great effect by looping live xylophone, guitar, vocals, organ and more to build each song layer by layer, producing a rich, textured sound. Wolf’s whispery vocals invoked the Silver Jews, a comparison he gets a lot, while Hodson sounds like a sultry Stevie Nicks. Their songs were intricate, beautiful, enhanced by the occasional flourish of sudden drum flares. Unfortunately, Wolf isn’t local, because this is the best thing I’ve heard in a while.
— Anders J. Nielsen