Daughn Gibson at Triple Rock, 7/22/13
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
July 22, 2013
After the high-profile weekend Daughn Gibson had in Chicago, playing the tastemaking Pitchfork Music Festival and an exclusive afterparty show at the Bottom Lounge, you could forgive the recent Sub Pop signee for mailing it in on a Monday night in Minneapolis -- where instead of playing for thousands, he performed for 30 or so fans at the Triple Rock. But that's the life of a touring musician in this day and age, so rather than deliver an uninspired show to a mostly empty room, Gibson and his two-piece band (an unintroduced guitarist and drummer) played an invigorating 40-minute set that was a fluid blend of gritty blues and raw experimentalism.
Each song was preceded by recorded introductions that Gibson would cue up in front of him -- dialogue from movies, songs, or friends -- setting the mood and the tone for the track itself, which the band built on as soon as the music kicked in. And while on record Gibson's sound has a moody, soulful R&B quality to it, in a live setting those songs take on a rougher edge, giving the pulse of the original numbers a welcome bite. So while the ominous haze that hangs over a track like "You Don't Fade" still has a menacing quality to it, the band gives it more of a feral backbone live that adds some gritty spirit to the song.
The brief set drew evenly from Gibson's two terrific full-lengths -- his debut, All Hell, and his recent release on Sub Pop, Me Moan. The performance was augmented by videos projected on a wrinkled white sheet hanging behind the band with the rest of the stage shrouded in darkness, as kaleidoscopic images of women dancing and bright bursts of color coincided with the restrained sonic outbursts the band generated.
As for Gibson himself, he tried to make a connection with the all-too-quiet Monday crowd, asking us enthusiastically how we were doing at the start of his set and revealing a part of himself by dedicating a song early on to "the love of my life -- my wife," all of which elicited hardly any reaction from the small crowd. So he retreated into his music, holding his microphone stand aloft in triumph while also letting it curl around his neck like a noose -- as if getting these songs out was both a blessing and a curse for him.
Gibson's robust baritone took on a Nick Cave-like intensity at times, as he led the band ever forward while the track churned fitfully on. The subtle electronic textures that Gibson presided over certainly added a mercurial undercurrent to the material, giving songs like "Dandelion," "The Sound of Law," and "All Hell" a capricious depth and intensity that ultimately provided the creative spark for the performance.
The encore-less set closed with a lengthy instrumental, with the band adding layers of saturnine discord to the experimental track, which washed over the room like a dark, temperamental wave. Gibson was off with a cursory word of thanks to the audience, "Have a great night. See you next time." Hopefully, when that next time comes, more of Minneapolis will know of Daughn Gibson's exquisite charms.
Personal Bias: I've been listening to Me Moan for weeks now, and gained a deeper appreciation for these rich, soulful songs after seeing them performed live.
The Crowd: Meager, but supportive.
Overheard in the Crowd: Nothing at all -- this was a quiet, Monday-night crowd if there ever was one.
Random Notebook Dump: Florida quartet Merchandise delivered a terrific opening set, incorporating many different musical styles fluidly within their performance. Frontman Carson Cox at times seemed to be channeling Jeff Buckley in his lyrical delivery, while his guitar work blended rousingly with the other guitarist's to form a feisty urgency in their sound. This was their first ever Minneapolis performance, despite the group's lengthy post-punk history in Florida, and hopefully the small turnout doesn't dissuade the band from ever coming back, because their live show is enthralling.