The Wailing Wall - the product of Jesse Rifkin and whomever he can round up to play, they sounded like they'd been playing together for a while. The poetic lyrics and nasally voice make Rifkin at first sound like a Bob Dylan / Jeff Mangum wanna-be, but the jazz-influenced saxophone and feel for bringing out the meaning in songs made them a tasty appetizer. Sadly, the turnout for the early show was poor: Rifkin joked early on, "How are you doing? I mean you, personally, how are you doing?"
The Nurses - let the comparisons to Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, etc. begin. The Portland, OR trio employs a lot of the layered harmonies that the other new alt-folk bands do, but they get really amazing density out of just two vocalists. Lead singer / primary guitarist Aaron Chapman and keyboardist / backup vocalist John Bowers would often sing a harmony line, then loop it while singing other material. The result was such a dense layering of sound that I kept looking for a fourth band member; by the end of the song there would be a dizzying ocean of noise. An engaging opening act.
Le Loup - I saw them when they came around two years ago, and boy has the band changed - three of the former members are gone, with May Tabol, Nicole Keenan, and Dan Ryan departing and long-time studio collaborator Christian Ervin joining the touring band. The sound has morphed too - lead singer Sam Simkoff had no banjo in sight, preferring the keyboards, though his wild dancing was still in evidence. Axemen Ervin, Michael Ferguson, and Jim Thomson between two guitar / bass and three guitar / no bass arrangements, but the playing was tasteful - songs were allowed to breathe, but no six-minute guitar solos here.
The set was heavy on tracks from the just-released Family; I only counted two songs from their debut album (The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly). Even those had a different spin on them - "We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!" turned into an all-out percussion slugfest, with no fewer than three members of the band bashing on something. The drums were the order of the day, as a couple others songs were similarly augmented. Even when there was just drummer Robby Sahm going, he provided key rhythmic counterpoints to Simkoff's vocals. The music might get ethereal and dreamy, but there was the snare drum bringing it back to earth.
Le Loup played just over an hour but the set was tight and solid, without any dragging moments despite the late hour (they came on after 11 PM on a Tuesday). I'm looking forward to sitting down with my copy of Family and taking a deeper dive.
The Wailing Wall Site
The Nurses Site
Le Loup Site