Monday, June 1, 2009

Wovenhand acoustic show - Swallow Hill (5/29)

Last Friday, 5/29, finally brought with it the concert I had been (over?)hyping for the past month or so, if not on this blog, at least to the few people who would listen to me talk about it. The show featured an acoustic show by one of Denver's most respected groups, Wovenhand, at the Swallow Hill concert hall.

Similar to the fact that I had not been to Swallow Hill before, I think many of the Swallow Hill regulars had never heard Wovenhand before. The regulars at this concert hall, which doesn't serve alcohol (although it apparently may soon), were a bit older than the typical Wovenhand crowd, and thus, the audience had an interesting dynamic between these concertgoers and the hipster-ish crowd that filled in the rest.  

In one of his few discussions with the crowd, Edwards noted that (paraphrasing): "we usually play loud enough to bring the law." The Spiro's show at SXSW was case in point, although I think the law was there because they are at Spiro's every night, and not so much on account of the loudness that left my ears ringing for the next 24 hours.

You can find the Denver Post's review and photo gallery from the show here, and on that same note, I'll try not to repeat too much of what you already know from that review.  The openers Kal Cahoone and Elin Palmer did a nice job of opening the show and also of accompanying David Eugene Edwards and Ordy Garrison in the Wovenhand set.  Palmer I had seen perform as a backing musician for Munly and Tom Hagerman, although I had not heard her original music, which mixes Swedish traditional music with more contemporary indie pop sounds.  Pascal Humbert was noticeably absent from his normal duties on bass for Wovenhand, and while I'm sure he would have added a great element to the show, the performance was not lacking in any way.

(edit: And I've just been informed by the spouse that Kal Cahoone was/is half of Tarantella and also, it would appear, sister to Sera Cahoone, an artist on Subpop.  Missing information like this is the reason why I'm not a journalist.)

Overall, there were no major surprises (meaning he didn't play the hits from 16 HP), but as expected, it was a strong and well rehearsed Wovenhand show through and through.  Edwards did a good job to cover a broad spectrum of the Wovenhand catalog, and I was pleased to hear some of my own personal favorites - most notably "Pail Blue Fever" and "Dirty Blue."  

While the venue provided a more intimate setting (read: deadly quiet) for Edwards and his songs, the show provided little added insight into the thoughts of this very private artist, who spends little time making idle conversation with the audience and who typically gives no hints to audiences or interviewers in regard to specific song meanings.  A devout Christian, Edwards does not hide his beliefs, but he uses his art as his primary expression of them (as far as the public is concerned), and knowing the depth of his talents, it is clear that he is playing on his strengths by taking this route. Throughout the night, he remained stoic as ever, although he was very mindful of demonstrating his gratitude to the audience, no doubt acknowledging his appreciation to them of supporting him and allowing him to make a career out of his music.  I was a bit surprised that he came back for an encore, but once again, one could sense a mutual appreciation between artist and audience.

Since his 16 HP days, I've long heard that Edwards is far more popular in Europe than in his home base of Denver, although I have to imagine that is what has kept him here in Colorado and allowed him to make music out of the spotlight and on his own terms.  Though subtle, I found the best representation of Edwards and his musical legacy early on in the show.  When Palmer was having some problems tuning her nyckelharpa at the beginning of the set, Edwards could have been very impatient, knowing that the full house was waiting to hear him begin his set.  However, he reassured her to take her time and get it right, just the way he's done his entire career.

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