Double Barrel Benefit Night One: Bowerbirds, Lost in the Trees

The Pour House, Raleigh

Friday, Feb. 6, 2009

A couple songs into his band’s headlining set at The Pour House Friday, Bowerbirds‘ Phil Moore said, ‘This is what we call a party.” A few cheers followed. ‘Just continue to party,” he said. ‘Maybe in a more subdued way,” Moore’s bandmate, Beth Tacular, pleaded from across the stage.

The vibe was happy for the first night of WKNC’s sixth-annual Double Barrel Benefit, but people seemed more interested in hanging out than hearing Bowerbirds. Constant conversation filled the air, delicate vocal harmonies and guitar picking struggling versus the storm. It made for quite the contrast with the set the band played through an actual rainstorm in Duke Gardens this past summer.

Crowd aside, of particular interest was the group’s set-up: Violinist Mark Paulson was absent, though one of the last songs, ‘In Our Talons,” was dedicated to him (the others were dedicated to Brad Cook, Megafaun member and co-owner of Burly Time Records, which first signed Bowerbirds). In Paulson’s stead was Wes Phillips on upright bassa friend and former bandmate of Paulson and Moore in the band Ticonderogaand Mickey D’Loughy on percussion, a role that used to be split by the bandmembers. New songs fit the general Bowerbirds vibe, but were a little more driving, a little less free flowing, and featured more piano. The last song, ‘Bright Future,” stood out, with Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds offering backing vocals. Even this didn’t silence the masses, unfortunately.

Preceding the Bowerbirds, Lonnie Walker and Schooner each put on a good show, but Lost in the Trees owned the evening with the night’s second set. After fitting 11 musicians on stage, little separation remained between audience and ensemble. Stray comments were blown away by bellowing tuba and sweeping strings, but mostly, people were dumbstruck by how high-spirited a band featuring both accordion and cello could be.

Lost in the Trees invited listeners to party with them, not next to them. Ari Picker, the band’s lead singer/ guitarist/ composer, kept the energy up with his own songs and a cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘Ghost.” Front and center, Picker strummed a 12-string guitar with six strings. Overkill? Yes, but there’s some sort of metaphor there about not always having to go big to connect.