Copeland at Slim's, by Patric Carver
Copeland (photo: Patric Carver)

In Florida, the border between civilized and wild territories is often imaginary. Concrete jungles mask a hidden sampling of flora and fauna, with herons and egrets commonly strolling across parking lots to get to the next irrigation ditch that is assuredly teeming with insects, and perhaps fish or turtles, for them to feast upon. Overhead, an osprey or hawk is never far from view, circling in their perpetual hunt.

Likewise, Florida natives Copeland challenge the border between tame and untamed. Touring in support of their album Blushing, they played to a packed house of eager fans last Tuesday at Slim’s.

Copeland’s sound is dreamy and open without being frivolous. Frontman Aaron Marsh produces strong, high notes that endure without a trace of vibrato, darting out into the audience. Plenty of times, the music felt like it was washing over the audience, but Marsh had his listeners absolutely bathing in his vocals. It was beautiful.

But, like the murky waters that punctuate his home state, Marsh’s melodies are merely covers for the passionate anxieties, the grit of life, that belie the craft of each song. For instance, in the song “Night Figures,” Marsh’s beguiling tones swept out the lyrics, “You’re emotionless when you look at me.” It sounds like a lullaby, but it’s brutal underneath.

In addition to new material, Copeland also visited some of their more vintage work, including “Not Allowed,” a gem from 2008’s You are my Sunshine. Though a band whose aesthetic is so consistently pretty does not usually engage me, hearing this song reminded me that Copeland is the exception.

It’s hard to believe that they were playing with a man down. With their guitarist suddenly out with a hernia, Copeland rolled with the punches. A band that is still very much into the work of musicianship, their realness on stage did not come off as in any way manufactured. Gracious on stage, Marsh thanked opening bands Many Rooms and From Indian Lakes with more than a simple mention. “It’s hard to be out on tour and playing for people who may not know your music, so please support them,” he called to the crowd, beckoning for them to visit the supporting bands merch table.

That acknowledgement of the struggle that comes with the sweetness of making your art is embedded in the duality and complexity of Copeland. It’s music that is good for the soul.