Photos by: Bank of Karma
If you build it…they will come, and (((folkYEAH!))) has surely nestled itself into the soul of Big Sur over the past four years, drawing both Bay Area and national talent into unconventional settings that make it hard to return to the dive bars and overlarge auditoriums within our urban confines.
The grounds of the Henry Miller library, if you haven’t been, basically consist of a large yard, with a backdrop of gorgeous greenery and redwoods and an extended deck leading out from the small store that houses a hodgepodge of the author’s memorabilia and other like-minded literature.
Not too sound uber-Californian, but everyone seemed at ease, including the performers. The Mumlers began as the sun still glimmered between the trees, and their lazy blue-eyed stoned soul picnic was a perfect starter to the evening. Working from a ballad-heavy set, Will Sprott and company played with the poise of 50s something cover band to a mostly seated crowd. With the release of their new record, Don’t Throw Me Away, and an ensuing tour stint with the Black Heart Procession, it won’t be long before they attract some legitimate national attention.
Papercuts followed thereafter, and having never seen them live, I was pleasantly surprised by their breed of understated, hazy brit pop, reminiscent of The Clientele or a plethora of 90s 4ad bands. The trio assembled around founding member Jason Quever was assertive, providing a nice foundation to Quever’s wispy falsetto, which at times drifted off into the ceiling of trees.
Next, was New Zealand’s ever elusive, genre-hopping Ruby Suns. Their 2008 Sub Pop release Sea Lion is a pastiche of world music, new wave, and 90s shoegaze, and admittedly, one of my favorite CDs from this past year. So, it is with great regret, that I must say their live show seemed extremely uneven for the better part of their set, complete with a dash of awkward stage banter.
The Ruby Sun himself, Ryan McPhun, and his two pals seemed over-their-heads in trying to recreate the “live” punch of the tunes, and instead deferring to pre-recorded samples and beats — which frankly sounded a bit odd in the middle of this bucolic patch of redwood paradise. That said, they did get some people moving around up front, setting the tone for the Dodos frenzy about to take place.
I hadn’t seen the Dodos in about a year — and a lot can happen in a year to a band that is suddenly working with big name producers, playing summer festivals and popping up in the most unlikeliest places (like your boss’s iPod). But holy shit. They absolutely killed it, and while the obvious hooks of a maturing pop band were in place, the fringes of rawness between the arrangements were executed by Meric Long and company as if they were playing still to be noticed.
Foregoing the dual mic set-up, Long’s singing seemed devoid of gimmick and over saturation and vibraphonist Keaton Snyder simultaneously provided a melodic and rhythmic backdrop to the tunes, and seemed to finally seal the trio deal for this band.
And as for Big Sur and the Henry Miller compound, I will surely return before the harvest halts.