Concert review: Sea Wolf and Hey Marseilles weave intricate folk pop at Plush, Thursday, October 11

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At Plush on Thursday night, Hey Marseilles and Sea Wolf both played their respective sets as if they were headliners.

Hey Marseilles, from Seattle, opened with a pristine sound that ran the gamut between Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers. On “Cannonballs,” from 2010′s “To Travels and Trunks,” Matt Bishop’s lead vocals rose above the delicate instrumentation of Samuel Anderson’s cello and Jacob Anderson’s viola. The song, like much of Hey Marseilles’ material, featured a far-away opening that slowly became more present — like a polaroid developing — as the track built with layers of added sound, harmony and emotion.

Bishop complained that he was missing the evening’s debate before he offered the audience “Dead of Night,” a track off Hey Marseilles’ upcoming record, due out sometime early next year. “Rio” stood out as the crowd’s favorite moment of the set. The entire band kicked off the tune with complex Latin hand clapping that showcased Hey Marseilles’ interest in cultural artistic play. The song shined with delightful solos from each member of the band. “Cafe Lights” was a strong closer that rose and fell, like birds riding warm updrafts, with fascinating and diligent dynamics.

After a long set break and soundcheck, Sea Wolf’s Alex Brown Church appeared and opened with “Miracle Cure” from 2012′s “Old World Romance.” Like many of the tracks on Sea Wolf’s new record, the song featured Joey Ficken’s tight drums, Church’s static, acoustic strumming and wobbling electric leads laid over Lisa Fendelander’s keys. Church’s vocals were breezy, spot on and full of all the dulcet emotion of his songs.

“Winter Windows,” from 2007′s “Leaves In The River,” pulled the crowd in with Fendelander’s synthesizer — dialed in to sound like a waterlogged accordion before exploding into clean keys during the chorus. Church sang, “This is the world…we live in. It’s not the one I choose, but it’s the one we’re given.”

“The Traitor” maintained a satisfying verisimilitude to its album counterpart, and “Old Friend,” the lead single from “Old World Romance,” featured every delicate shuffle and digital accent found record side. The audience rocked out for “The Cold, the Dark & the Silence” as Sea Wolf pushed the track into the stratosphere with hints of distortion and fuzzed-out strings.

In my opinion, “Priscilla” is the sleeper hit from “Old World Romance.” The audience seemed to agree as Church enunciated its tangled heap of beautiful images over a flurry of well-timed drum work. “Middle Distance Runner” was greeted with hoots and hollers as Ficken stomped into the song’s opening with his bass drum.

“I Made A Resolution,” “Turn the Dirt Over” and “Kasper,” each representing a different record from Sea Wolf’s catalogue, all hung together with the warm vibration of Church’s vocals. The songwriter’s usual images of dirt, water, leaves and cold trees bubbled up in between glowing guitar and warm violin.

Sea Wolf appropriately closed with “You’re a Wolf.” The thrum of the tune featured a lilting melancholy bound up in its heartaching cello and slick electric guitar picking.

The band returned for a three-song encore, which included “Black Leaf Falls,” with its wonderful acoustic importance; “Saint Catherine St.,” complete with an emotionally supportive, subdued feel; and “Black Dirt,” ending the night on a hook of introspective, yet uptempo rock. After the encore Church gave a final bow and waved the crowd out into the misty St. Louis night.

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