The Low Anthem
House of Blues – Chicago, IL
Easily one of the most innovative collective groups I have witnessed, the Low Anthem is a quartet of Awesome-ness. If there is not a band out there with that name, I’m pretty sure the Rhode Island-based group should take this hint and call dibs. Post haste. I mean, don’t you love it when you can see a favorite band of yours and the opener is just as great as who you came to see? Although parts of their set would drag on the Low Anthem did get a chance to show off for a little while. Flex those musical muscles, so to speak.
Quartet of Awesome (a.k.a. The Low Anthem, as they like to be called) can play over 30 instruments collectively. Right now, they are touring with 17 instruments and “enough harmonicas to summon a swarm of locusts” as their Myspace boasts. The band has picked up steam traveling around the country, making big noise at SXSW, Bonnaroo, the Newport Music Festival and even Lollapalooza. Previously, there were only three members, but Mat Davidson was added before recording their most recent album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. The old friend of frontman Ben Knox Miller boosted their repertoire of all things musical, including the saw:
I am pretty sure most people have not seen someone use a handsaw as an instrument. Unless unless you are a huge instrument guru, (and you’re probably not) your primary reaction could sound similar to, “What?! Is that a saw? Why, that’s PREPOSTEROUS!” Now imagine the entire House of Blues questioning The Low Anthem’s next move. I’m unsure if it was a singing saw or not, but it is a sound that would be hard to replicate any other way. I could just tell you how it sounds, or…
Better yet, I’m not going to tell you! You can find out when they come back through Chicago on April 6th. The band announced at the House of Blues show their next visit to Chicago will be at Lincoln Hall, one of my favorite spots.
Now, not only does the musical saw sound like one of the hardest skills to master, but the quartet does not simply play a piano or a clarinet in the span of a song. They do play those instruments, and in the song, “Ticket Taker”, Jocie Adams manages a small army of instruments: clarinet, the crotales with a cello bow and her own voice along with various percussion chimes. Head drummer Jeff Prystowsky spent most of his time between a mean set of drums and a bass. In between songs, each member of the foursome would hastily head to their next few instruments. It was kind of funny to watch, sort of like watching a band playing musical chairs.
For the third song in their set, Ben Miller rocked very honky-tonk rock-and-roll version of Tom Waits’ “Home I’ll Never Be”. Ironically starting out with the line, “I left New York in 1949 / To go across the country without a dad-blame dime”. The band then played through the more somber half of Oh My God Charlie Darwin. The quartet even had a few a capella moments which were beautifully balanced. I only wish they played a more upbeat set- opening for such a high energy group like The Avett Brothers. No regrets from the The Low Anthem here. They played a short set due to the House of Blues early curfew, yet the Low Anthem will be remembered for its eclectic alternative sound.
Just in case you didn’t catch it before or if you are the ultimate blog skimmer, The Low Anthem will be back in Chicago on April 6th at Lincoln Hall. Tickets are only $14.00 and oh-so worth it! Check out their website for videos and free photos in HD! Swanky!
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge The Low Anthem Photos: