Loney, Dear/Bahamas @ Chop Suey, Seattle, WA 03.24.12
In a world full of far too many immediate entertainment options, it's a given that some brilliance is going to fall through the cracks. Granted, the deck was a little stacked on Saturday night; Seattle snapped out of drizzly misery for a day of sunshine, and the city's concert calendar was stocked with heavyweights like Nada Surf, Of Montreal/Deerhoof, and I suppose the argument could be stretched out in En Vogue's direction (no offense, En Vogue) for stealing away some potential concertgoers. Whatever the case, Chop Suey had more than enough elbow room for a show that should've sold out a room twice that size.
Bahamas' opening set was stripped down even more than their normal guitar/backing vocals/drums setup, as drummer Jason Tait (of The Weakerthans) was back home with a newborn child. Main Bahamanian Afie Jurvanen didn't seem phased a bit by the lack of percussion, and the stark nature of Jurvanen's sparkly Silvertone guitar, soulful voice, and duo of heavenly backup singers made his songs fill every empty space in the club with warmth. While many artists present acoustic/stripped down sets that sputter from lack of driving elements, Bahamas' bare bones set showcased the no punches pulled honesty and dry wit of Jurvanen's songs.
Years of touring as a member of Feist's band show in some of Jurvanen's arrangements and presentation (balancing playful and somber moments together effortlessly), but it's the man's unrelenting guitar playing (dropping ridiculous but tasteful licks at all the right moments) and undeniable charisma (think Roy Orbison meets Ricky Nelson, with maybe a little Dylan tossed in) that will likely make Bahamas fill rooms a lot larger than Chop Suey in the next year or two.
Sweden's Loney, Dear's set was also a stripped down affair compared to full band tours in the past, with singer Emil Svanängen mainly building loops of himself singing and occasional accordion and vocal accompaniment from Susanna Johansson. Whereas Bahamas came off as organic and straight forward, Loney, Dear's set was much more abstract and processed (Svanängen's guitar and voice were run through an army of looping pedals, reverbs, and pitch shifters that surrounded him) but much more bluntly tender and emotive than Bahamas' folky leanings. Svanängen has a magnificent charm to him as well, and a lot of it comes from his Swedish background; he's blunt and tells you exactly what's at the top of his mind, whether it be that he messed up part of a song and wasn't supposed to tell us that, or giving us a lengthy, childlike recounting of a dream that he had recently. Svanängen focuses that childlike wonder throughout all of Loney, Dear's songs, sometimes building from quiet, pin drop moments into grandiose swells of sound (he could easily go toe-to-toe with any of Bon Iver's most sweeping moments), but much like all artists who are working with a loop-based grid, there were moments of the set that meandered a bit without the propulsion and focus of a full band. That said, most of the set was the former; walls of bone-chillingly gorgeous textures and the added bonus of watching Svanängen's wheels turn as he poked his handheld mic at various cymbals and drums and built warm waves of noise that he sang his heart out on top of.