Spirits of the Red City enchant the Bryant Lake Bowl
Spirits of the Red City frontman Will Garrison, left, with cellist James Waldo. Photo taken from Will Garrison's MySpace page.
There has been a noticeable trend of roots revival rippling through the Twin Cities for the past year or more, and one of the latest installments of this movement could be found performing last night at the Spirits of the Red City CD-release show at the Bryant Lake Bowl. As with any trend, there are bound to be some who pull off the style of the genre better than others, and anyone looking to cut to the very soul of the local roots and folk movement would do well to check out this immensely talented band.
A band of nine musicians took the stage for the Spirits of the Red City set, and miraculously managed to not look crowded on the relatively small BLB stage. Though there were a lot of them, the music never became overwhelming and the attention stayed on singer Will Garrison's soul-churning yelp for the entirety of the set -- an impressive feat of balance and sensitivity for such a sizable group.
Garrison's skills as a songwriter and singer took the spotlight as the band began to play, at first delicately and quietly and then gradually with much banging and fanfare. Garrison led the way with relatively simple acoustic guitar parts, and the band joined in to add layers of drums, banjo, accordion, cello, violin, trumpet, bass, vocal harmony, and whatever other instruments they could get their hands on. The musicians traded off instruments between songs, proving the technical proficiency of the individual members, and the entire group chimed in on the choruses of the louder songs. One of the female back-up singers was so excited to be a part of the performance that she beamed throughout the entire set, backing away from the microphone and mouthing along with all of the lyrics when it wasn't her turn to sing.
Overall, the night had a palpable feeling of celebration and reverie; the audience was having fun, but the band was having an even better time on stage performing for the sold-out crowd. Which is what makes Spirits of the Red City such an endearing band: There is a sincerity in the way they approach their songs that breathes new life into the most old-fashioned sounds. It is a sincerity that was lacking in openers Marshall and Nona (the accordion-playing duo that fronts baroque neo-folk outfit Dark Dark Dark) and many others; an honest and heartfelt approach to the form that sets Spirits apart from all of the other players in their field.
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