The Shouting Matches at First Avenue, 8/2/13
|Photo By Erik Hess|
The Shouting Matches
With Alpha Consumer
First Avenue, Minneapolis
August 2, 2013
Near the end of Friday's Shouting Matches show, Justin Vernon led bandmates Phil Cook and Brian Moen through the soulful "I Need a Change." The standout track from their debut full-length, Grownass Man, is ostensibly about a relationship that has run its course. But it also was a reminder of Vernon's need for a creative break from his Grammy-winning Bon Iver project to create gritty, stomping blues jams with his friends.
The Shouting Matches' 15-song, 75-minute Minneapolis live debut at First Ave not only delighted the packed house, but also found Vernon and his talented friends getting loose and enjoying themselves.
The band wasted little time kicking things into high gear, as they confidently strode onto the spartan stage and immediately launched into the fiery opener, "Avery Hill," with Vernon ditching the recognizable falsetto that colors much of his Bon Iver material in favor of a more natural baritone growl. Cook slid behind the keyboard for an equally tempestuous take on "Mother, When?" with Moen's drum work giving the song a roiling, sturdy back beat.
Vernon joked a bit about the band's "new" status in the modern music world, introducing the next number by saying, "We're going to play an old song of ours called 'Bear.' We've been a band for a super long time, but whatever." And it was exactly that type of carefree, casual attitude that injected these spirited songs with a refreshing vigor, while also considerably distancing them from the serious and stately songs of Bon Iver.
|Photos By Erik Hess|
The packed house could certainly study up on their music history, though. When Cook took to the microphone to pay tribute to a fallen musical legend, saying "We lost J.J. Cale this week. We're big fans of his music, and his songs have been very influential to all of us," his words didn't rouse much of a response from the young crowd, and sadly their simmering take on Cale's "Crazy Mama," with Phil leading the way on vocals, wasn't met with much recognition either. But no matter -- for those still mourning Cale's passing, the cover proved to be a touching tribute.
The band quickly snapped the audience back to attention with "Heaven Knows," featuring a scorching guitar solo from Vernon and lively harmonica work from Cook that transported the crowd to a front-porch jam session down south. The trio's effortless interplay and relaxed camaraderie strengthened Vernon's point about how long they've been playing together, and that familiarity clearly extended to Vernon's bandmate in Bon Iver, Mike Lewis, as well, as Lewis (who is also in opening band Alpha Consumer) joined the group on saxophone for a smoldering version of "Gallup, NM," which continues Justin's fondness for naming his songs after small cities. The track featured an understated guitar riff from Vernon that blossomed into something magnificent.
"Now we're going to do an old gospel song," Vernon announced before leading the group through a filthy take on "Another Man Done Gone," the lead-off track from the band's debut EP, Mouthoil. But after that, Vernon teased, "OK, now on to the sappy material," which caused Cook to tease, "Just know that when we recorded these songs, we were gazing right into each other's eyes. If that doesn't bring you comfort, I don't know what will." The songs did slow down in tempo and tone, but they didn't lose any of their impact, with Vernon tenderly introducing a lovely version of "I'll Be True," by saying, "We've all got some family here tonight, so this is for y'all. We love you guys."
|Photos By Erik Hess|
The sentimental portion of the set continued with "New Theme," which had a '50s-radio charm to it. A long, exploratory outro at the end of the song gave the set a jolt of energy, which continued with the Chicago blues jam, "Three Dollar Bill," as all three guys lost themselves in the spirit of the song.
After touting how they had some Grownass Man cassettes available at their merch stand, Vernon went on to succinctly introduce the next number by saying, "This is about late-night stuff. It's called 'House Call.'" Vernon's lyrics suggested that if he has "too much rust, I'll corrode," so by staying busy he manages to keep his talents fresh and free of tarnish. And with accomplished outlets like the Shouting Matches and Volcano Choir (who are releasing a new record called Repave in September), there's plenty of creative space and opportunity for Vernon to distance himself from Bon Iver.