Owen Pallett is a violinist, keyboardist, vocalist, and composer hailing from Toronto, CA. He is a one man band but performs live with two other musicians. He opened his set with an impressive multi-layered piece which consisted of 6 layers, 4 of which he performed himself via a loop pedal. He began by laying down a pizzicato line on his violin, then another, then an arco rhythm line on the violin before performing the lead line and singing while his drummer and guitarist accompanied him. He continued to amaze and surprise the crowd throughout his performance and set the scene for what was a great night of music.
Grizzly Bear is a Baroque pop/psych folk/indie rock outfit (I hate genre classification) from Brooklyn, NY. They formed in 2002 and consist of Daniel Rossen (vocals piano), Ed Droste (vocals synth), Chris Taylor (bass, sax, and tech, however there was a fifth person playing behind them handling all effects in real time leaving Taylor free to play his instruments), and Christopher Bear (drums.) Their performance at the Brown Theatre spanned their entire four album catalog taking the audience on a journey of unity, division, maturity, and progression.
They kicked off their set with the second track from their latest album, Shields, entitled “Speak in Rounds.” It opens with a nice ambient synth wall accompanied by a subtle drum beat and subdued bass line followed by the opening lyrics. Next comes a simple but more upbeat acoustic riff that plays right into the chorus with flange and phase effects giving it a psychedelic feel before retreating back to its more acoustic melodies. Towards the end of the song the sound scales into an epic fanfare with horns and chorus vocals layering into a tidal wave before calming abruptly as if to give the audience an overture of how the night would progress.
They continued with “Adelma,” an atmospheric instrumental interlude with an ominous synth backdrop, periodic phasing and sweeping guitar riffs produce an eerie setup for the opening track from Shields, "Sleeping Ute." "Sleeping Ute" has an infectious lead guitar line that will stay with you long after the track has ended as will the paining vocals and quite literal thundering crescendos.
Later in the set they play one of my favorite tunes “Lullabye” from the sophomore album Yellow House which introduced me to their signature sounds. Ed Droste plucks away at an autoharp while Rossen repeats “chin up, cheer up” building with more and more intensity each time before plateauing with “my love's another kind” then closing with a whimsical outro.
As they closed out their set (and then returned for an encore performance) they brought out opener Owen Pallett to perform a couple songs with them, and his signature looped violin synergized perfectly with band. They closed their main set with the closing track from Shields titled “Sun in Your Eyes” which is a near perfect song in my opinion and in typical Grizzly Bear fashion the song starts out on the ground and then culminates at a peak that just engulfs you and continues to grasp you until it’s unfortunate but inevitable decay.
Hopefully it will not be another 4-5 years before Grizzly Bear returns to Louisville. At one point in the show Droste stated 2008 was the last time the band performed here. I really enjoyed their performance, as I am sure all the others in attendance did, and I look forward to hearing future projects from both Owen Pallett and Grizzly Bear. Were you at the show? If so what did you think? Drop a line in the comment section.
Photo: courtesy of Anna Blanton