Low @ Velour 03.30

Posted April 5, 2013 in

Low pulled a crowd that ran the age gamut"a testament to the longstanding quality of their work. Photo: Zoran Orlic

Typically, anyone who is in the same band as their significant other is just unconsciously invoking disaster upon themselves (Buckingham-Nicks syndrome is a testament to this), but the way in which Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker merge their aesthetic ideals together almost seems like an absolute force. Yes, they’ve been married ever since Low’s inception, so it’s reasonable to perceive the band as their proverbial offspring (even though they do have actual children). They also have been making music since 1993. Their new album, The Invisible Way, is their ninth album released to date. 

Low’s tenure as post-rock beloveds became more palpable as I sized up the widespread crowd in Velour, shortly after my arrival. A majority of the audience was predominantly a lot older than I am, which caused me to feel a bit youthful at the debatably ripe age of 25.  Just like Sparhawk and Parker, a majority of the audience probably had kids of their own as well. This should be viewed positively, though, since the prospect of being introduced to slowcore-influenced post-rock by your parents is just as awesome as it is absurd. 
As I found a place in the venue to nest myself before Low started, a projector broadcasted an image of a timer counting down from 10 minutes on the backdrop behind the stage. This concept doubled as a convenience for power smokers and merch collectors. As it reached the final 10 seconds, the crowd began counting down out loud until the timer reached zero. Almost instantly, the lights dimmed and Parker started to play a steady locomotive rhythm, which shoehorned into the first song of the set, “Plastic Cup.”
Although it has been two decades since Low was incarnated, the group’s creativity definitely has yet to show any wrinkles. Whereas some of their slowcore contemporaries have already rereleased a slew of albums and are rounding out their second lap of remastering, Low is still making authentic additions to their record portfolio. Parker’s towering and warm vocals hardly sounded much different from the Drums and Guns days. Sparhawk’s ominous wailings are still potent. And even though new bassist and general what-not-ist, Steve Garrington, has only been with the band for a twinkling of its existence, he seems to have proven himself to be  much more of a supplemental leg than the previous members. 
Throughout the rest of the set, Low performed songs from most of their canon—mainly from The Invisible Way and C’mon. The band had a trance-like disposition, which seemed exactly appropriate for the narcotizing and stratospheric music they produced. Coinciding with their performance was the backdrop behind them, which subtly displayed Low’s commonly used, choppy archival footage of mid-20th Century stunt airplanes and vintage handheld shots of landscapes. Tying all of this with the fact that the crowd was devoutly silent during the whole set (Sparhawk even jokingly suggested somebody should initiate a fist fight for the sake of breaking the dead air) casted a mesmerizing effect within the venue that would make most low tempo indie bands riddled with envy.
Whether they’re still relevant or not, Low’s dynamic alone is as interesting as it is strong.  I’ve personally never seen a navel-gazing listener discontented by their compositions, but if I did, I would challenge them to see Low perform live. Their hauntingly sedating compositions aren’t wide in variation, but they are all equally capable of suspending your mind with hypnotizing, downbeat textures. The hour a and half you spend in your own mind is a decent tradeoff for the 20 years of practice they’ve spent putting you there in the first place.
Low pulled a crowd that ran the age gamut