Vetiver at The Independent, by Joshua Huver
Vetiver (photo: Joshua Huver)

Andy Cabic’s Vetiver wrapped an extensive tour Wednesday night with a two-hour homecoming show at the Independent in San Francisco.

“We drove straight through from Chicago to be here,” Cabic announced early in the show. “We slept, but we were driving non-stop.”

Variety is the spice of life, and Cabic is no stranger to varying his ways, whether it is a new lyric, a different fill, or the way he builds his set lists. He applies the same aloof and varied approach to his records. Released late in 2015, Complete Strangers was slowly assembled over several years and focuses on multiple aspects of mundane, yet emotional moments in one’s life.

Although the lo-fi indie sound has historically been difficult to translate from live to record or vice versa, there is a great deal of consistency throughout Vetiver’s performance on stage and on record. The low volumes give each instrument room to hold space, typically for Cabic’s warbling vocals or a smooth and ethereal slide run – but they don’t seem to take too many liberties or chances poking around outside of the box.

Even though Vetiver is Cabic’s official platform for all of his personal projects since 2003, he rarely goes it alone and often recruits friends to tour or make recurring album appearances.

Vetiver at The Independent, by Joshua Huver

The current touring lineup boasts Jeremy Harris rounding out guitar duties, often trading lead licks with Tim Ramsey on the pedal steel while Nick Alves and Richard Gowan hold the rhythm section down tight. A huge key factor in the sound of Vetiver comes in the acoustic/electric/pedal steel combo, often mimicking a harp or sustaining notes for days, the combined wail of the strings is a crucial element, but it is easy for them to overlap each other.

Vetiver started their 14-song set by reaching into one of their more successful efforts, 2009’s Tight Knit, with the tune “Another Reason To Go.” They continued to pull from different periods of Cabic’s catalog, moving next into “Current Carry” and “Can’t You Tell” from the most recent release, Complete Strangers, and 2011’s The Errant Charm, respectively.

A second tune from Errant, “Wonder Why,” preceded a cover of Gene Clark’s 1973 tune “Here Tonight” before Cabic and crew returned to the Tight Knit‘s “Sister” and the new track “From Now On.”

Cabic began a descent down memory lane, through Tight Knit‘s “Rolling Sea” and into the 2004 self-titled debut album for “Oh Papa,” which showcased a very capable lead from Ramsey’s pedal steel. Check out the video of the segment below.

Cabic remained in the past for “Down At El Rio,” the only track off of 2006’s To Find Me Gone before allowing himself (and subsequently his band) to open up and enjoy the stage a bit more. Finally shaking the weariness of three days of nonstop driving, the next song, “Strictly Rule,” really opened up in the middle and they were visibly having fun with a high-caliber peaking jam.

They returned to the new record for the next two songs, the up-tempo and high-energy “Loose Ends” followed by “Stranger Still,” a lighthearted tune with an unexpectedly laid-back, tropical-island vibe. It felt like an appropriate close to the show, but then the audience was surprised with the true final song of the set, “Wishing Well.”

Even the most die-hard of Vetiver fans may be clueless to the old fashion barnyard stomp that is “Wishing Well.” As a B-side to a bonus track’s 7″ vinyl, it was limited in circulation and rarely played live. Fortunately, San Francisco holds a unique place in the heart and soul of all things Vetiver.

They band walked off the stage shortly after 11pm and returned almost as quickly as they exited. A sloppy run through of the massively popular “Everyday,” the fifth and final song of the night off of Tight Knit. The show ended with the second cover of the evening, Hawkwind’s 1970 track “Hurry On Sundown.” The only track from the 2008 all-cover album Things Of The Past. Whether it was the fact that song was the final song of an enduring tour or because they had finally settled into a groove, it was one of the more exciting tunes they played.