The Cave Singers
The last time I saw The Cave Singers was at Kilby Court, where they played a show that was both intimate and badass. It’s good to see that they’re moving into larger venues, but deep down, I was worried that their stage presence might lose some of its gravitas in a place like the Urban Lounge.
When I fly solo at concerts, I like to find a nice spot towards the back where I can hunker down and put out my “Sorry ladies, I’m not interested” vibe. Not that there were a lot of unattached ladies there—I spied a surprising amount of homely dudes with dates that were way out of their league. The lure of The Cave Singers is indeed strong—like the influence that alcohol has on good judgment.
The opening act was provided by a band called Pollens, also from The Cave Singers’ hometown of Seattle, Wash. They consisted of two dudes—one on guitar/bongos and one on drums—and two ladies—one on bass and one on acoustic guitar/keyboards. Based on the hardware that they were unpacking, I felt slightly optimistic about their set. Maybe these guys would actually make it to my iPod, which is getting more and more exclusive these days.
Their set began with the keyboardist belting out a strange, discordant chant that the bassist and guitarist eventually began to echo. The confusion in the crowd was palpable. On the one hand, I thought that it took a lot of guts to completely own this weird Afro-trance drone that they were selling, but on the other hand, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow stuck in a sketch from Portlandia.
Now the moment of truth was upon me. Will The Cave Singers be able to tap into the same primal zone that I saw at Kilby Court? Or will the larger venue and extra hipsters water it down? Their stage presence hasn’t changed since the last time I saw them. Lead vocalist Pete Quirk still had his ginger beard and cap, and the rest of the band retained their deliberately casual appearance. They started with “Canopy” from their recently release album Naomi, which was a good choice. The song is catchy enough to get the room’s attention, but mellow enough to hint at something bigger coming down the line.
The dudes rocked—I could see from their faces that they were in the zone, but this time around it didn’t quite hit me in the same way. I still dug the show, but I missed those moments at Kilby where it felt like I was participating in a turn of the century shindig. I remember being pleasantly surprised by the energy that The Cave Singers were able to derive from songs that sounded more introspective and humble. Naomi has a vibe similar to No Witch—they’re both muted and beautiful—but rather than cranking it up to eleven and creating a foot-stomping, knee-slapping experience, The Cave Singers stayed in that dusky twilight area that comes through on their albums. Even some of the songs that I remembered to be particularly rollicking were a bit more toned down and focused.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the show. These guys make great music, and they’re excellent performers. I can’t begrudge them the fact that their music lends itself to moments of quiet introspection—that’s one of the reasons I like them so much. It was interesting to see them in two different venues, touring for two different albums. Their natural and rustic style still translates well live, and they still got the crowd moving. Whether they connect with the crowd through contagious energy or folksy head bobbing, The Cave Singers are consistently talented performers.