Seen, but also heard: Trails and Ways, Waterstrider, and Harriet Brown

10 Jun
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Trails and Ways. Their visuals were synesthetic; that is, the colors danced with the music in real time.

Last Saturday, the Bootleg was host to a twee dream come true. It was a packed house and stacked lineup, with LA’s up-and-coming R&B producer Harriet Brown, and Bay area rising stars Waterstrider and Trails and Ways. Bruises were sustained during the show’s grand finale, though none of the band was injured; it’s never a dull moment in this city of angels.

I want to say this up front: that night, I was exhausted. I rose with the sun at 6a and ran around setting up an event for eight hours. I took a nap, but standing and dancing around for four more hours did not make my legs feel any less sore. I was a little cranky about all the technical difficulties that the venue had, though there weren’t any more than normal. It was too dark to take any decent photos on my phone (that’s as hi-tech as I can get) so I sulked in the darkness. And there wasn’t enough treble, there I said it. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to the show.

Big ShotWhen I got to the Bootleg, I was surrounded by Marlon Brando. There was a life sized cardboard cut-out of him in the back of the room, and closer to the merch table was a wall of Godfather facts and figures (or something, I dunno, I didn’t read it). I expected Harriet Brown to come out in a gaudy suit and begin talking about his mother. Turns out, Big Shot, a play described as “vaudevillian theatrical collage inspired by The Godfather films,” was being put on in the next room. People filed out of that show through a door next to the bar, and many stayed for the concert that started shortly thereafter.

Harriet Brown took the stage in his white trenchcoat and tall Adidas socks and began looping away. Smooth beats melded with his golden pipes, all with enough falsetto to communicate with a pod of sexy dolphins. He performed new songs, and looking past a few mixing issues, they all sounded great. His guitar work was also amazingly impressive. Think Asian Prince, but with more expressions.

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Waterstrider

Up next was Waterstrider. If you recall, I wrote about Waterstrider a few weeks ago to recognize their contribution to the first OIM Records compilation. They released their debut album, Nowhere Now, back in ­­­­March and it’s a work of art. This album gives me the very same goosebumps that I got the first time I heard In Rainbows. Radiohead pioneered the sound that I can only describe as magnetic improvisation, where the instrumentation pulls unexpected melodies together to create a wonderfully cohesive piece of music; Waterstrider has clearly mastered that, too.

I don’t want to beat this Radiohead comparison to death, but those vocals are so Thom. On the album, Nate Salman’s voice can reach impressive heights and the timing of the lines can be as arrhythmic as “15 Step.” “Passing Ships” also has a lyrical touch that I noticed first in Sufjan Stevens’s “I Want to Be Well”; the refrain is written out as “Home in your love/I am,” but as Salman sings, the line folds in on itself and creates new meaning. (Similarly, the title line from “I Want to Be Well” gets a different emphasis each time Sufjan says it- “…I want to be, well I want to be well, I want to be, well…”)

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Nate Salman, Waterstrider. Dat ponytail.

You probably can tell that I’m setting this up to pay endless compliments to Waterstrider’s live performance as well. I was not expecting live bongos, but in hindsight I’m glad they didn’t overlay their live percussion with a pre-recorded drum machine. They played a tight set, so tight that it felt even shorter than Harriet Brown’s. And then there was Trails and Ways.

Last Tuesday, Trails and Ways released their debut album, Pathology. Not counting their hometown album release show in San Francisco, this show was the first of an extensive national tour they are currently on with Waterstrider. I haven’t heard the full album, but what I heard on Saturday confirms that it’s probably great; of the singles I recognized, “Say You Will” and “Skeletons” were particularly excellent.

The audience was as excited to be there as the band was, if not moreso due to alcohol. Harriet Brown collaborated on a track from the new record, and as he took the stage to perform it with them, two girls followed closely behind him. At first I was confused as to why Brown all of a sudden needed a posse: the stage at the Bootleg isn’t overly spacious, and with four more people onstage with him than his own set at the beginning of the night, it was a little chaotic. Then it dawned on me that those girls had assumed he was just an enthusiastic audience member like them, and followed his lead to the mic. I have no idea if they realized their mistake but I know for a fact they did not care that they had literally stolen the show. Until they lost their balance during the final few bars of the next song, tried to steady themselves by grabbing the other, then inevitably crashed into the drum set and took a hard fall. The drummer, Ian Quirk, jumped up to make sure everyone and everything was okay, but everyone else was giddy with incredulity. The show must go on, and it did, with the entire room energized by the insanity of it all.

That sort of thing is probably once-in-a-tour, if not once-in-a-lifetime, but still, you should see Trails and Ways and Waterstrider if they are passing through your city. Find a full tour schedule and ticket information here. Buy Pathology here. For more information on Trials and Ways, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Buy Waterstrider’s album, Nowhere Now, here. For more information on them, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For more information on Harriet Brown, visit his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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One Response to “Seen, but also heard: Trails and Ways, Waterstrider, and Harriet Brown”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Seeing is Believing: Astronauts, etc, Harriet Brown, and Swim Team | The Music Court - July 13, 2015

    […] who I actually saw open for Waterstrider and Trails and Ways a month ago. Read about that night here. Tonight he showed off his muscle, and in this slightly larger venue, the crowd returned his […]

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