by Lauren Kim
As soon as the doors of Out of the Blue Art Gallery opened on a frigid Wednesday night, one indie pop and two folk bands piled in with their equipment as the venue staff struggled, trying to get the heater to work. The quirky gallery was covered wall to wall in knick knacks, paintings, and old books, making for quite an interesting locale. With an optional donation for entry, the bands were clearly there to play their music and enjoy themselves, and as soon as the heater came back on, that’s what they did.
So Sol performed first, in all their classic folk band glory. John Garrett, his wife, Jessica Desilva, and Bruce Scott appeared on stage with nothing other than a guitar and a lapsteel. Scott’s twangy 1948 lapsteel, hooked up to a pedalboard, created a dreamy atmosphere. Desilva’s cowboy boots served as the only element of percussion during the performance; her left heel was decorated with bells and the right with cymbals. Garrett, serving as the guitarist, added color with the occasional maraca and harmonica. So Sol’s simplistic charm was only emphasized by their dog Duke, who sported a bandana and napped lazily near Garrett’s feet. They played songs off their 2015 album Coma, Uma, Bella as well as other unreleased singles. The band draws influence from an intercultural fusion of Latin American and folk styles, definitely making for a distinguishable sound.
Next up was the band Sedgewick, a group of lifelong friends hailing from Chicago, with a debut EP Gardens under their belt and a record on the way. Band members Sam, Oliver, and Jake used a vocoder, a midi-controller, and pedalboards to create a captivating soundscape that I can only compare to being gently swept away in a river. I particularly admired their balance between the electronic and organic-folk aspects of their music. They used the vocoder and midi to create carefully crafted effects, subtle enough to sound conducive, but great enough to make their music sound slightly ethereal. Despite the electronic aspects of their set, they maintained the folk vibe and, like So Sol, wore bells around their ankles. I was particularly pleased by their song “Too Fold” where they depicted cold days in Chicago, which showed off the band’s vocals, which were soft, dreamy, and complementary of one another, reminding me much of Fleet Foxes’ voices. Discussing their songwriting process, Oliver noted that the band likes to tell stories, imagining soundscapes and building up songs from something as seemingly mundane as a roadkill experience. Their full record can be expected June or July of 2017.
Happy-go-lucky indie pop band Trails and Ways appeared as the final act, performing their album Own It, released October 2016. This performance was one of the first shows they played since the loss of prior members, Hannah Loon and Emma Oppen. Two new musicians took Loon and Oppen’s place, one on keyboard and the other on guitar. Despite the addition of new members, it was clear everyone of Trails and Ways knew the material well enough to feel comfortable on stage. The band was originally founded when the four original members met at UC Berkeley after studying abroad in Brazil and Spain. Although the Spanish and Portuguese musical influences apparent in their earlier albums seem to be missing from Own It, the album remains consistent with the band’s indie persona, featuring dancey, pop chord progressions and offering sprinkles of a cappella with punchy kicks. It’s hard to not have your spirit lifted by Trails and Ways, who performed with smiles on their faces and a carefree disposition. When performing their most popular single, “Mtn Tune,” the audience rose off the floor and danced along with the band, creating a happy atmosphere and a sweet ending to an otherwise folk-chilled night.
So Sol, Sedgewick, and Trail and Ways still only have a humble number of listeners and remain in the early stages of their careers. This means an expectation of growth from here on out; I look forward to their new albums with excitement and optimism, knowing I can expect only the best.