The Antlers
Kings, Raleigh
Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Antlers’ origin story is not entirely original. In fact, you’ve probably heard it before: Sensitive songwriter suffers a loss, tucks himself away, births a batch of cathartic songs, and finds a bit of hope in new creation. If he’s lucky, the arms of the Internet scoop up both he and his progeny, cradling and soothing: There, there. It will be all right.

That’s exactly what happened with Hospice, the Antlers’ self-released third album, which Peter Silberman spent two isolated years penning in his Brooklyn apartment. With the addition of drummer Michael Lerner and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci, Hospice launched the Antlers into critical acclaim. Silberman’s plaintive falsetto and agony-to-exaltation songwriting guided the three-piece.

Though 2014’s Familiars is an obvious attempt to move beyond the shadow of Hospice (and the automatic tag of “sad band”), the Antlers’ live show couldn’t quite shake the sorrow last week in Raleigh. The band churned through Familiars’ opening trio of songs without pause, mostly ignoring the audience and receiving only courteous applause in return. It wasn’t until Cicci began tapping out the opening pulse to “Kettering,” the breakout—and heartbreaking—track from Hospice, that the sold-out crowd began to look perky, not just polite.

Dan Seiders, the band’s audio engineer, moved the most of anyone in the crowd, dancing around the soundboard and thumping boxy effects pedals to bring “Kettering” to its five-minute crescendo. When Lerner eased up on the drums and Silberman transitioned into the airy vocals of the newer “Drift Dive,” several listeners sashayed toward Seiders and the soundboard, checking the night’s setlist against the track listing for Hospice on their iPhones.

The Antlers swayed through the rest of Familiars, with Cicci rotating between trumpet and plucked slide guitar to create breezy melodies that hinted at calypso on Ambien. The arrangements’ slow build required either either extreme patience or slight disconnection, both of which the audience practiced. After the subdued “Refuge,” the band closed out the night with “I Don’t Want Love” and “Putting The Dog To Sleep,” which, as the titles might suggest, are sad numbers. But after the new material, not everyone was ready to get so serious.

“My God, would you please shut up?” one man yelled to a particularly loud set of talkers, prompting a rash of nervous giggles and applause. Unfortunately, it was one of the only times Silberman made eye contact with the audience, and for a brief moment, the entire crowd—as well as the band—seemed present. Strangely, that connection made for a special moment, prompting a crowd-wide singalong and feverish head-bopping. “I just couldn’t help it,” the enforcer later explained. “I was having feelings.”