When they first come on stage, it is easy to mistake Dry the River‘s aloofness for detachment rather than focus. Lead singer Peter Liddle steps onto the stage first, silent and grungy in the DIY haircut he says makes him look like something out of Monty Python, and the rest of the band stands silent with him. But as soon as they begin to play, they leave no doubt as to the intensity behind their music. Their resonating harmonies capture you immediately in songs such as “Shaker Hymns,” “Bible Belt,” and “Weights and Measures,” while still managing to get the crowd excited with heavier, more upbeat songs like their finale, “Lion’s Den.” Their banter, with each other and with the crowd, grows lighter and more natural as the set goes on. If you can catch them live, Dry The River is sure to surprise and excite you, their easy-going flow bringing you back to the days of basement shows and garage bands.
After a short intermission, headliners Bowerbirds stepped onto the stage, and already there was a sense of something organic about them. Acoustic guitars, cellos, violins and accordions in hand, their sound was not unlike the rolling ballads of old, faraway lands. Like their music, their interaction with the audience was mellow and simple. But what was perhaps most striking about their set was the sense of wonder -in both melodies and lyrics- that singer Phillip Moore communicates through his voice. The accordion in particular gives them a fuller sound, and still does not diminish the airy nature of their songs. For longtime fans of the band, the evolution of their sound has certainly become evident, as they chose to play from their insightful, emotional new album, The Clearing.
Both bands reeled the crowd in with the sheer power of their music. In a business where first impressions are often everything, these bands manage to confound expectations and put on a great show. We hope to hear from them more in the future.