MACROCK reviews

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Wes Swing and the Heart @ Court Square Theatre

Court Square Theatre proved to be the perfect venue for Wes Swing and the Heart. This was the first time Swing, a cellist from Charlottesville, Va., and his fellow band mates, Anna and Jeff, performed together. With Anna on violin, Jeff on bass and Swing switching between guitar and cello, the trio produced a sound that was completely unique. The theatre provided a quiet and intimate setting for Swing’s heart-felt, experimental folksy tunes, which could have been drowned out by the noises at other venues like The Artful Dodger or Clementine Cafe. While there were only three musicians on stage, the use of a looping machine allowed the band to layer multiple harmonies and rhythms, creating songs that juxtaposed simplicity and complexity.  Swing is also known for his poetic lyrics, like in his song “In a Station of the Metro,” based on a two-line poem by Ezra Pound.  Swing’s show and album showcased a mixture of traditional folk songs on guitar and experimental cello pieces.  The show ended with Swing’s most famous song, “Lullaby,” a piece heavy in cello looping that culminates in hauntingly beautiful cello, violin and vocal harmonies and bittersweet lyrics. Concert attendees felt the need to close their eyes and deeply sink into the beauty of Swing’s music. By the end of his performance, they left hungry for more.

 

Snowy Owls @ The Artful Dodger

Hailing from Richmond, Va., Snowy Owls specializes in fuzz-pop guitar rock, reminiscent of bands like The Cure and The Radio Department. While the guitar may be ‘fuzzy,’ the energy is sharp. Snowy Owls rocked out, and so did the audience. For the entirety of their 20-minute set, Artful Dodger was bouncing, jamming and head bobbing along with Snowy Owls’ catchy jams. It’s easy to see why Snowy Owls are crowd pleasers, with a sound that is loud but not at all abrasive, and appeal to people with a wide variety of music tastes.  Their final song had everyone on their feet, while lead singer, Matt Klimas’ furiously shook out his swinging long straight locks. With super high energy, emphasis on the guitar and heavy on the whammy bar, these guys definitely love what they are doing, and they do it well. 

 

Legs Like Tree Trunks @ Court Square Music

“Well it’s great to be down here in the Bible Belt,” said Legs Like Tree Trunks lead singer, Matt Holden. While their southern geographical knowledge may be a little off, their sound isn’t. Traveling to Harrisonburg for the first time from Pittsburgh, Pa., Legs Like Tree Trunks looks like your typical garage band gang, plus one dude with a kick-ass beard. Their sound has a nostalgic quality, with songs that screamed “soundtrack to a summer vacation,” bringing the audience back to a time when they were younger and didn’t have a care in the world. Even though their album, “Future Reference,” has a mellower vibe, their live show was full of energy as the band performed mostly new material from their upcoming album. Legs Like Tree Trunks are carefree and fresh with an endearing charm. When Holden whipped out his iPhone to snap a photo in the middle of a tune, it was easy to see that Legs Like Tree Trunks were just as excited to be there as the crowd. They’re a group of guys who you just want to chill with, and want to get to know you too.

 

SoftSpot @ Court Square Theatre

A three-piece experimental band hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., SoftSpot is a band like no other. Singer Sarah Kinlaw’s hypnotic voice — similar to Björk’s — flows over guitar-heavy rock tracks, creating songs that encourage people to get up on their feet and jam out. Having the show at a sit-down venue gave the audience an opportunity to really take in all the intricacies of SoftSpot’s music. Their live show was on the harder rock side of the music spectrum, while their latest album, “Enso,” is softer. Because of the contrast, the venue seemed off. While the Macrock staff probably expected a softer show, suited more for Court Square Theatre’s intimate feel, SoftSpot opted to play newer, harder tracks with creative names like “Tour New” and “Newest.”

“Yeah, we’re not really good at naming our songs,” Kinlaw admitted.

While that may be true, each song had something to say and was charged with intense emotional energy that would culminate in Kinlaw’s insane vocal riffs and improvisations that mesmerized the audience. If SoftSpot continues to lean towards a heavier rock sound it would be wise to have them in another venue next time, like Court Square Music or The Artful Dodger, where listeners can fully appreciate their tunes on their feet.

 

Timbre @ Court Square Theatre

As soon as the lights dimmed and the crowd fell silent, Timbre, a Virginia Beach native, began softly strumming her harp and sweetly sang “The Wind May Be Beautiful” from her latest album, “Little Flowers.” The song starts out soft, slow and gentle, like a lullaby. Immediately a feeling of serenity took over the auditorium and the audience was swept onto a cloud, flying through the soundtrack of their dreams. Timbre’s angelic voice coos lyrics drenched in poetic beauty. The band kicks in halfway through the song with cello harmonies and percussion that add power and emotional depth to the song, while Timbre blows your mind with her incredible vocal range and clarity.  Thanks to an unexpected cancelation from Cat Martino, Timbre got to perform an hour set, treating the audience to new songs from her upcoming album, “Sun and Moon.” The album is a double disc record featuring classical harp compositions by Timbre on “Moon” and songs with the band on “Sun.”  “It’s turned out to be a huge production,” Timbre said. “I want to show that classical and band music are the same, and poetry and painting…these things all flow together.”

Timbre shows this with one of her newest songs based on George MacDonald’s short story, “Day Boy and Night Girl.” The song goes through the emotional struggle of Nycteris, who has never seen the sun, and decides to see it for the first time, even if it kills her. Timbre’s songs promote a new kind of emotional expression that incorporates all forms of artistic mediums from music, to poetry, to literature and wraps it into a package that feels incredibly ethereal. After an hour of celestial musical escape, the audience gave Timbre a well-deserved standing ovation.