Photos by Nicole L. Browner
There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe how incredible Wye Oak was on Friday night at the Independent.
If you’re a fan of the band’s gothic country indie rock (or whatever the hell it is) on record, then you must see them live. No matter how much you like the recordings, you will gain new insight into the band’s sound once you hear their songs with extreme quiet-to-loud dynamics — like “Holy Holy” or “Plains” from their 2011 album Civilian, or “For Prayer” from 2009’s The Knot — played live. It’s a full body-and-mind experience. They achieve the towering majesty of noise rock bands like Sonic Youth, while the quieter parts have the chilled out sonic beauty of a band like Beach House. (Wye Oak and Beach House both hail from Baltimore, too. Makes you wonder just what the hell is in the water in Baltimore…)
Listening to Wye Oak on record I often wondered if they’d bring a bassist on tour, given that the band consists of just Jenn Wasner on vox and guitar and Andy Stack on drums and keyboards, but most songs are underpinned with some really good synthy bass lines or keys parts. Turns out Stack plays all of the bass and keys with his left hand while drumming with his right hand and feet. It was impressive to watch; no wonder many of the Wye Oak fanboys in the crowd would occasionally let rip an “Aaaaannnddddyyyyyyy” between songs. That dude was killing it, even if he kinda had the stage presence of a robot.
Just when I thought the show couldn’t get any more awesome, they threw in a cover of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody” (you can watch a YouTube video of it here; super dark but audio is pretty good). Honestly I didn’t realize what a good singer Wasner was until I heard her play that song. And the way they turn it into a grunge-meets-R&B hard rocker — that to me was the final word. All hail Wye Oak, man.
Sea of Bees played just before Wye Oak, and I definitely enjoyed their fuzzy folk rock sound. Being sandwiched between Wye Oak and Social Studies was in no way an enviable position, but Sea Of Bees still entertained, even if the band, and the vocals especially, seemed a little too twee for the overall vibe of the night. Still, they put on a good show, except for a “Leaving On A Jet Plane” cover that I could have done without.
Social Studies was, admittedly, a damn tough act to follow that night. They sounded incredible on The Independent’s sound system. Singer Natalia Rogovin was in fine form, deserving of her own Beach House comparison, specifically to Beach House singer Victoria Legrand (whom I think we can all agree is pretty badass). I especially dug a new song, “Terracur,” which I’m told will appear on the new album Social Studies is hard at work on. I was a fan going into the show, but after their performance, I’m way stoked for the new album.