November 2, 2021 at the Sinclair
To most of the world, Buck Meek is best known as the guitarist in Big Thief, an ethereal folk-rock band that has enjoyed a huge rise in popularity in recent years. To me, however, Buck Meek is known for his outfits, which somehow always catch me slightly off guard. So, naturally, the question at the top of my mind as I climbed the Sinclair steps was this: what was he going to wear this time? Would it be the implausibly shiny satin shirt that he wears in this Tiny Desk video? The hat from this video, which is probably not shaped like any other hat in the world? Or maybe, (although this was unlikely, given that the show was indoors), the puffer jacket with one sleeve rolled up that I saw him wear at Big Thief’s chilly Northampton show last month? But no. To my surprise, Meek made a suave and unassuming outfit choice for the first show of his month-long tour: a tight t-shirt, equally tight black jeans, and polished black boots.
Clad thusly, Buck Meek stepped out onto the expansive stage with his band, a simple and classic set-up of drummer (Austin Vaughn), lead guitarist (Adam Brisbin), and bassist. And now is probably a good time to mention that nearly everything about Meek’s music is simple and classic. Often repeating the same major chord progressions, his guitar playing lays the unmoving foundation for his transcendent songwriting. Meek sings about the little things – the trusty mechanic who fixes his grandma’s car in “Joe by the Book,” or the blue jay stuck in his kitchen in “Dream Daughter” – but these stories feel anything but insignificant. In short, it’s folk-rock at its finest.
Meek kicked off his set with “Pareidolia,” a soft but driving ode to the patterns we see in the clouds. His hands, which are quite possibly the largest guitar-playing hands in folk rock, barely seemed to touch his strings, and Meek was enjoying himself. His band, however, had a few kinks to work out at first. Adam Brisbin’s imitations of a pedal steel sounded much more like a guitar, and it was clear the band needed more time to mesh together. Meek seemed unconcerned, and after working through the first few songs, the band found their groove.
One of the best things about seeing Buck Meek play is the joy of watching him feel the music. More than any other musician I’ve seen, Meek lets the sounds float through him. Snare hits make his shoulders jerk forward, a sudden change in key can make his head twist, and throughout it all, his eyes remain blissfully closed. Watching this unfold from the audience, it’s almost impossible not to let it move you too.
After treating the crowd to an unreleased song called “The Undae Dunes,” Meek launched into an older song called “Sam Bridges,” which the diehard fans in the audience loved. Meek’s band was perfectly in sync now, and the most delightful part of this was observing Meek’s chemistry with his lead guitarist. Brisbin’s reverb-drenched riffs were a perfect match for Meek’s comparatively simple acoustic chords, and the whole band’s sound was shining. Another treat came during “Dream Daughter,” where Meek’s drummer launched into a driving brush groove that gave the song an entirely new feel. The band finished with a well-chosen selection of songs from Meek’s two most recent releases, closing with a powerful rendition of “Halo Light.”
For the first show of their tour, and what Meek cheekily described as his ‘album release show’ (his most recent LP, Two Saviors, came out in January 2021, when live music was unthinkable), the band fell into their rhythm incredibly quickly, and clearly had fun doing it. So, despite not wearing a funky hat or out-of-place puffer jacket, Buck Meek still stole the show, and there’s no doubt he’s headed off on a very successful tour.