In the first week of March, 2009, the very interesting then-trio The Low Anthem played a gig at Mission Bar and Tapas, the rather tiny nightspot that makes a welcome habit of booking talent that seems a bit above its head. It was a few months after the self-release of Oh My God Charlie Darwin, a record that would be picked up later that year and become the band’s breakthrough—at least into the circuit of interesting bands that end up being profiled and playing live sets for NPR with regularity. It was also shortly before Rolling Stone announced their “breaking” status.
Later that year they made an appearance at the rooftop party kicking off the first Word X Word Festival, and then played the opening night show on a bill that included poet Taylor Mali, at Barrington Stage Company’s second stage. Last November, they played a word-of-mouth, under the radar show at a warehouse in Pittsfield to maybe a hundred or so people. Then their headlining show at MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 last weekend sold out quickly after a generous profile on the band ran in The New York Times' Sunday Style section the week their new album came out.
I’ve had the chance to write about them on all of these occasions (and included the end of “This Goddamn House,” as performed at Mission, as one of my Top 5 musical moments of 2009 in my year-end recap in the Berkshire Eagle). These pieces have spanned three different publications, so on each occasion I’ve been challenged to provide an introduction of sorts to the reader, while moving the story forward from the last time I checked in on them—and also avoid recycling any language. It’s a challenge I’ve really enjoyed, and something seems to click for me with this subject, as I think it’s brought out some fine work.
I interviewed Ben Knox Miller and wrote this advance feature on the band before the Mission show, then reviewed it. (Both in the Berkshire Eagle.) I reviewed the warehouse show for Jambands.com. And in this week’s Metroland, I wrote a review of the MASS MoCA show that I’d love you to check out.
"The sublime blend of sounds achieved by the quartet’s extensive stock of vintage instruments—from pump organ to musical saw, clarinets to jaw harp—felt as light as a growing shadow and as heavy as history itself. It is old and new and strange and eerie, of no place in particular but perhaps summoned from some murky place in our collective unconscious."