Before I go any further, let me just get this out in the open… This was without a doubt the best concert I’ve been to in 2012. Okay there, I said it. Now let’s continue and find out what made it such a good show…
The opening band was called Daytona. I’d never heard of them before and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, they were great. They were a three-piece, your standard guitar-bass-drums combo. They live in Brooklyn and play indie rock. Yet somehow, everything they did was new and fresh, not in any way the cookie-cutter type stuff one would expect from a Brooklyn three-piece indie rock band. For starters, they sounded absolutely huge. Through some creative sampling, they managed to layer guitars and backing vocals until it sounded like ten people were on stage. On several songs the guitarist (who was also the primary vocalist) would start with an echo-y arpeggiated figure, sample it and loop it, and later in the song play distorted power chords or solos over it. A few tracks saw the bassist and drummer looping their “oooohhh” and “aaaahhh” backing vocals. The bassist himself got into the looping action on one song, beginning with a motif high up on the neck, then looping it and switching to a fuzz pedal and playing a deep groove over it. The drummer was insanely creative as well, often using maracas, tambourines, and sleigh bells in place of drum sticks. On one song he played with his bare hands for part of the song, giving a sound almost like a bongo drum. As for their music itself, it’s just good jangle-pop-influenced rock, with a tendency to jam and get lost on strange sonic detours. A good starting point might be later Pavement, with perhaps a bit of The Slip (the indie rock/post rock/jam band/whatever, not the Nine Inch Nails album). I bought their vinyl EP, which comes in a sleeve hand-painted by the bassist. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this impressed by an opening act. I’m eagerly anticipating a full length from these guys.
I’m going to take a little detour of my own while I try to collect my thoughts. I’m not really sure how to capture Lost In The Trees in words, so I’ll ramble a bit instead. After the opening band left the stage and the lights came up, an adorable short girl turned around, asked me if I was here to see Lost In The Trees, and when I said yes she high-fived me. We started chatting and hit it off pretty well. She introduced me to a few of her friends, who all seemed really cool as well. Seeing as how I couldn’t find anyone to go to the show with me, they adopted me into their group. As we continued chatting it appeared that tonight would be a replay of yesterday at the laundromat, and when the show was over my suspicion was confirmed – amazing, beautiful, sweet, friendly, intelligent girl with good taste in music… and a long-term boyfriend. ‘Tis the story of my life – the more amazing a girl seems to be, the more likely she is either happily taken or completely psycho. Yay.
But enough of that detour… let’s get back to the concert.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, Lost In The Trees is a band centered around Ari Picker, a classically trained composer and former member of The Never, one of the most criminally underrated bands of the past ten years. They play a very symphonic brand of rock, a little bit like a cross between The Moody Blues and Radiohead. While they haven’t really broken big just yet, they have a very passionate fan base. Everyone I met asked me if this was my first time seeing them, and when I said yes proceeded to tell me what I’ve been missing out on. A few people tried to convince me to go to Charlotte tomorrow and see them again. These people love their band, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an audience that was more into a show than this one. The next hour or so would surely make a believer out of even the most hardened cynic. As the band played off the crowd and the crowd in turn played off the band and turned things up a notch, the whole thing basically turned into a giant love fest. This is the sort of vibe you can only get by seeing a lesser known band in a small club and just letting the music and the passion take over. There really aren’t words to describe the experience, you really had to be there.
While they focused mostly on songs from their newest record, A Church That Fits Our Needs, they played a lot of songs off of their first album and their debut EP. While Ari’s guitar and painfully sincere vocals were the main focus, the rest of the band members threatened to steal the show on a number of occasions with their incredible musicianship. A beautiful blonde named Jenavieve played violin, did some background vocals, and even broke out an autoharp for a few songs. Next to her was Drew, who mostly played cello, but occasionally played bass guitar. The usual bassist, Mark, played everything but the kitchen sink, including but not limited to tuba, electric guitar, synthesizer, and glockenspiel. Their keyboardist Emma, who somehow remembered me from a Never show over five years ago, also played various percussion instruments, French horn, and sang. I’m not sure the drummer’s name, and Wikipedia is no help, but let’s just say he was amazing. One particular technique blew my mind – he placed a small cymbal on top of his snare drum and whacked it with a mallet. The sound it made most closely resembled a synth drum, bright and tinny. My drumming skills are very limited, so I’m always looking for new ideas to inspire me and help me create the sounds in my head. I’m definitely going to have to mess around with this idea and see what I can do with it.
Ari proved to be a pretty animated frontman, jumping and wandering all around the stage, sometimes nearly crashing into his bandmates. He switched back and forth between a beautiful hollow body electric guitar and an acoustic that was originally a twelve string, but with the other six tuning pegs completely ripped out of the headstock and six strings strung normally. He and Emma did most of the talking, thanking the crowd and saying how much they love Asheville. Evidently Ari stayed here briefly and wrote a lot of songs during that time, most of which were on their previous album, All Alone In An Empty House. They played a few songs off of that album and a few off the Time Taunts Me EP. Most of the newer songs were played with more aggression and volume, calling to mind the songs off the debut EP, but never losing the intimate beauty of the newest album. They mixed in some unexpected bits, like a sound collage of feedback and some droning synthesizers in between songs. They closed with an epic ten-plus minute medley of two songs off their newest album with some jamming in between.
As they walked off the stage the crowd went berserk, and you knew an encore wasn’t far behind. However, they turned the tables on us and walked into the crowd. An all acoustic lineup of Ari on guitar, their usual string section, tuba, and a single snare drum took its place in the middle of the audience. He proceeded to tell us that they wouldn’t be quite as loud as they were on stage, and might need some help. The crowd had no problem obliging, singing every word to a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “All Alone In An Empty House.” As the song ended and the thunderous applause faded I started to make my way over to my new friends. Everyone was pretty much in agreement – the only word that could describe this concert was “amazing.”
In addition to buying the Daytona EP I also bought A Church That Fits Our Needs on vinyl. Instead of coming with a download code, which has become pretty standard these days, it came with the actual CD of the album. Not to mention a lyric sheet. Evidently they’ve done the same thing for their first album, and their debut EP includes a CD and a download code. I joked around with Emma and Daytona’s merch guy about what else might be included in the more limited pressings of the album – “the band comes to your house once a week to play the album in its entirety” was probably the cleverest idea to come out of our brainstorming. And it wouldn’t surprise me if that became an option at some point in the future. This is a band that loves its fans (one of the band members remembered me from a concert from years ago) and loves to use its music to reach out and touch you. This isn’t a band that tosses off disposable hit singles or headlines faceless stadium tours. This is a band that creates beautiful art and plays best in an intimate setting, one where they can hang out in the middle of the audience and chat with fans after the show. Their music is moving and powerful, and they’re a genuinely nice bunch of people. What more could you ask for?