Despite the fact that a snowstorm is probably on its way as we speak, a crisp and balmy evening unfolded before me as I entered the confines of Kilby Court. It was definitely a fine night to kick back and enjoy some live music.
Utah’s own L’anarchiste started things off. These guys caught my attention while I was helping attendees find the bathroom at last year’s Craft Lake City. It was difficult to put my finger on their musical style then, and it was no different seeing them up close. They’re a large outfit that packs a wide variety of musical hardware, and it’s great to see them operate. Though there were shimmers of Bon Iver and Sigur Ros that showed up here and there, it’s difficult to fit L’anarchiste’s music into just one genre—but I like that about them. When it’s hard to classify the music that you’re hearing, it’s going to be a memorable performance.
The next act was a one-man project called Fort Atlantic. At first, I was a bit skeptical. After all, he was just one guy and an acoustic guitar. However, he played a set that was impressive enough for me to look him up online. As it turns out, the dude—he goes by Jon Black—is a music production machine. He’s taken advantage of the online resources at his disposal and has been independently playing, recording and producing his own music since 2010. Stylistically, Fort Atlantic’s music is solid, anthemic singer/songwriter material the likes of Mason Jennings and the Avett Brothers, which was a great primer for the headliners.
Interestingly enough, Ivan & Alyosha got their name from a Dostoevsky novel, which initially made me think they were all about bleak introspection on the darkness of the human soul. On the contrary, they’re very skilled at cranking out catchy melodies with sincere vocals—not stuff I usually associate with Dostoevsky. I bought their first EP a few years back after hearing “Easy to Love,” which is one of the best love songs of all time. See, I have this longstanding rule that, should a band create one of the best love songs of all time, I need to see how they pull it off live.
Their setlist was largely comprised of material from their debut album All the Times We Had—which I had yet to experience. From their laidback demeanors and casual banter with the crowd, it was surprising to hear how polished they sounded live. It was evident from vocalist Tim Wilson’s periodic signals to the band’s sound guy that it was important that they maintained their characteristic sound. They kicked off their set with “I’m Your Man,” a deceptively catchy tune that showcased the band’s aptitude for vocal harmonies. Wilson was complemented throughout the show by his bandmates, creating a vibe reminiscent of classic Beach Boys.
When they brought out “Easy to Love,” I noticed some additional guitar hooks that were not in the original, and it was a vast improvement. I loved the original, but this modified version—which I was happy to find out was on their new album—was something exceptional. One song called “Glorify” veered into gospel territory—that is, gospel territory with guns and booze. As the song reached its conclusion, Wilson’s singing was accompanied only by hand clapping and foot stomping. They wound the show down with “The Fold,” a slower piece that sounded a bit like The Killers, if The Killers decided not to start sucking. “Who Are You” and “Running For Cover” were great show closers—each song is powerful in its own way, and I remember leaving the show feeling invigorated rather than exhausted.
All in all, Ivan & Alyosha put on a great show. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but they were able to bring their own, unique energy to the alt-folk genre, despite the fact that it’s all over the place nowadays. I really liked going from the mind-bending minimalism of L’anarchiste into the more down to earth sound of Fort Atlantic, and then finishing with a healthy dose of alt-folk courtesy of Ivan & Alyosha. Great lineup, Kilby!