Trails and Ways, Waterstrider, and Harriet Brown

sngshows:

Originally appeared on the Music Court


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June 6th, the Bootleg was host to a twee dream come true. It was a packed house and stacked lineup, with LA’s up-and-coming R & B producer Harriet Brown, and Bay area rising stars Waterstrider and Trails and Ways. Bruises were sustained during the show’s grand finale, though none of the band was injured; it’s never a dull moment in this city of angels.

Last Saturday, the Bootleg was host to a twee dream come
true. It was a packed house and stacked lineup, with LA’s up-and-coming R&B
producer Harriet Brown, and Bay area rising stars Waterstrider and Trails and
Ways. Bruises were sustained during the show’s grand finale, though none of the
band was injured; it’s never a dull moment in this city of angels.

I want to say this up front: that night, I was exhausted. I
rose with the sun at 6a and ran around setting up an event for eight hours. I
took a nap, but that didn’t make my legs feel any less sore, standing around
for four more hours. I was a little cranky about all the technical difficulties
that the venue had, though there weren’t any more than normal. It was too dark
to take any decent photos on my phone (that’s as hi-tech as I can get) so I
sulked in the darkness. And there wasn’t enough treble, there I said it. Now
that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to the show.

When I got to the Bootleg, I was surrounded by Marlon
Brando. There was a life sized cardboard cut-out of him in the back of the room,
and closer to the merch table was a wall of Godfather facts and figures (or
something, I didn’t read it). I expected Harriet Brown to come out in a gaudy
suit and begin talking about his mother. Turns out, Big Shot, a play described
as “vaudevillian theatrical collage inspired by The Godfather films,” was being
put on in the next room. People filed out of that show through a door next to
the bar, and many stayed for the concert that started shortly thereafter.

Harriet Brown took the stage in his white trenchcoat and tall
Adidas socks and began looping away. Smooth beats melded with his golden pipes,
all with enough falsetto to communicate with a pod of sexy dolphins. He
performed new songs, and looking past a few mixing issues, they all sounded
great. His guitar work was also amazingly impressive. Think Asian Prince, but with
more expressions.

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Up next was Waterstrider. If you recall, I wrote about Waterstrider
a few weeks ago to recognize their contribution to the first OIM Records
compilation. They released their debut album, Nowhere Now, back in ­­­­March and it’s a work of art. This album gives
me the very same goosebumps that I got the first time I heard In Rainbows. Radiohead pioneered the
sound that I can only describe as magnetic improvisation, where the
instrumentation pulls unexpected melodies together to create a wonderfully
cohesive piece of music; Waterstrider has clearly mastered that, too.

I don’t want to beat this Radiohead comparison to death, but
those vocals are so Thom. On the album, Nate Salman’s voice can reach
impressive heights and the timing of the lines can be as arrhythmic as “15
Step.” “Passing Ships” also has a lyrical touch that I noticed first in Sufjan
Stevens’s “I Want to Be Well”; the refrain is written out as “Home in your
love/I am,” but as Salman sings, the line folds in on itself and creates new
meaning. (Similarly, the title line from “I Want to Be Well” gets a different
emphasis each time Sufjan says it- “…I want
to be, well I want to be well, I want to be, well…”)

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You probably can tell that I’m setting this up to pay
endless compliments to Waterstrider’s live performance as well. I was not
expecting live bongos, but in hindsight I’m glad they didn’t overlay their live
percussion with a pre-recorded drum machine. They played a tight set, so tight
that it felt even shorter than Harriet Brown’s. And then there was Trails and
Ways.

Last Tuesday, Trails and Ways released their debut album, Pathology. Not counting their hometown
album release show in San Francisco, this show was the first of an extensive
national tour they are currently on with Waterstrider. I haven’t heard the full
album, but what I heard on Saturday confirms that it’s probably great; of the
singles I recognized, “Say You Will” and “Skeletons” were particularly
excellent.

The audience was as excited to be there as the band was, if
not moreso due to alcohol. Harriet Brown collaborated on a track from the new
record, and as he took the stage to perform it with them, two girls followed
closely behind him. At first I was confused as to why Brown all of a sudden
needed a posse: the stage at the Bootleg isn’t overly spacious, and with four
more people onstage with him than his own set at the beginning of the night, it
was a little chaotic. Then it dawned on me that those girls had assumed he was just
an enthusiastic audience member like them, and followed his lead to the mic. I
have no idea if they realized their mistake but I know for a fact they did not
care that they had literally stolen the show. Until they lost their balance
during the final few bars of the next song, tried to steady themselves by
grabbing the other, then inevitably crashed into the drum set and took a hard
fall. The drummer, Ian Quirk, jumped up to make sure everyone and everything
was okay, but everyone else was giddy with incredulity. The show must go on,
and it did, with the entire room energized by the insanity of it all.

Buy Trails and Ways’s new album, Pathology, here. For more
information on Trials and Ways, visit their website
and follow them on Facebook,
Twitter, and Instagram.

Buy Waterstrider’s album, Nowhere Now, here. For more
information on them, visit their website
and follow them on Facebook,
Twitter, and Instagram.

For more information on Harriet Brown, visit his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

[MY FAVORITE SHOWS OF 2015]

June 6th
Trails and Ways
Waterstrider
Harriet Brown

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