Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Last Bison at Terminal West, Atlanta, August 13, 2013

Okay, remember that day last year when I was in Portland for MFNW and got talked into leaving the festival to go out to someplace called Troutdale, Oregon, to see My Morning Jacket perform at McMenamin's Edgefield? I missed most of the show that I was planning to see that night, which included Kishi Bashi at the Doug Fir Lounge, although I did get back in time to catch Sad Baby Wolf and the headliner, Moonface.  My Morning Jacket were terrific, though, and I don't regret my decision for a moment.

The bill that night at the Doug Fir was actually quite full, and included several other bands in addition to Moonface, Sad Baby Wolf, and Kishi Bashi.  In addition to missing Kishi Bashi, I also missed the opener, a band called The We Shared Milk.  But there was a fifth band on the bill, one I found intriguing (at least by the MFNW write-up), performing in between The We Shared Milk and Kishi Bashi, that I also missed. Last night, I finally got to see that band, The Last Bison, when they played at Terminal West. 

Sean Spencer opened with a solo set of songs on acoustic guitar.  Sean normally plays with a band called Seven Handle Circus, who are scheduled to play Terminal West on September 14.  They'll be playing The Georgia Theater in Athens this Friday.  But even without his band, Sean played a pleasant and compelling set of songs, including a cover of Paul Simon's The Only Living Boy in New York

The Last Bison took the stage a little before 10 pm.  They play an interesting amalgam of indie rock, folk, bluegrass, Americana, and chamber music.  The usual comparisons are to Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons, although I heard and saw a lot of similarities to The Lumineers, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Typhoon.  There were so many people on the stage (seven) that it takes two pictures to capture them all.

There's a lot to like here, including the percussion which gives potions of their songs a tribal vibe.  They don't employ a traditional drummer, but several members of the band, including frontman Ben Hardesty, take turns banding on a bass drum or a floor tom.

My only complaint is the outfits.  They dress like historical reenactors from Colonial Williamsburg.  The Lumineers do this too, but its all a part of their otherwise elaborate stage show, but when The Last Bison does it, it feels contrived and derivative.  For some reason, Amos the cello player was the only one who wore modern clothes.

Ben Hardesty has a decent singing voice and writes interesting songs (I assume he's the songwriter), which often build up into mini-epics.  A nice touch was when the string section, Teresa (violin) and Amos (cello), offered a little chamber piece to fill in the time it took Ben to re-string his guitar after a string broke (it happened at least twice).  These passages provided lovely, meditative, little oases of sound during the show.

The set ended with their song Setting Our Tables.  Here's the video:

For the encore, Ben played a few songs accompanied only by his guitar and Amos, the cellist.  Then they called Teresa, their violinist, out to the stage and performed an unamplified song on the floor with the audience gathered around them.

And that was The Last Bison.  More pics are posted over at the Flickr page.  Since that day last September, I've now managed to catch Kishi Bashi and The Last Bison, and only have The We Shared Milk remaining, and they're not currently touring.

No comments:

Post a Comment