[Photos / review] Poor Moon at Les Schwab Amphitheater

Friday, June 15th, 2012, 5:48 am by Ben Salmon

(I was going to write this for today’s GO! Magazine, but we ran out of room. So here you go. Photos by me.)

I feel a little funny about even putting the word “review” in the title of this post. Because, frankly … I don’t have that much to say about folk-pop band Poor Moon‘s show Sunday at Les Schwab Amphitheater.

The band wasn’t amazing, but pleasant enough. Although I suppose if you consider the context of their performance, they were pretty much perfect.

You see, for me, the Schwab’s Summer Sunday Concerts are about the music. But that’s because I’m an abnormally passionate music nerd who will pounce at just about any chance I have to go see a band play, especially one good enough to score a deal with the unimpeachable Subpop Records label, and that shares two of its members with one of my favorite bands, Fleet Foxes. And especially when it’s free and it’s outside and the weather is wonderful and I can take my wife and kid, and, and, and …

For lots of folks, though, these Sunday shows are more about all those and, and, ands than the music. Which is totally fine. The and, and, ands are super sweet, and they’re the reason Summer Sundays are among the highlights of Bend’s summer concert season.

They’re also why, as I walked up Shevlin Hixon Drive and approached the amphitheater, I was taken aback by the size of the crowd. I ran into the venue’s manager, Marney Smith, who estimated attendance at more than 2,000. For perspective, that’s more than attended four of the Schwab’s nine ticketed, big-name concerts in 2010.

It was quite a sight, fueled primarily, I’d guess, by the fact that, on June 10, it was clear that nice weather was finally here for real, and a whole bunch of locals grabbed some brews and a blanket and headed down to soak up the sun.

And so, it was a casual scene on the amphitheater’s rolling green lawn, where kids wandered around and parents reclined on the ground, the buzz of chit-chat steady all afternoon. Dozens of folks gathered on the concrete area just in front of the stage to dance or hula-hoop or whatever, but most found a spot, plopped down, and let the warmth sink in.

That’s what I mean when I say Poor Moon was the perfect band for this gig, which frontman Christian Wargo said was the biggest the group has ever played. (They’re relatively new, but still.) The sextet’s breezy, often beautiful take on indie-pop-meets-folk/Americana owed a stylistic debt to ’60s folk and ’70s country rock, so much so that I thought several songs I’d never heard before sounded familiar. That can be a bad sign — too derivative! — but it can also be the mark of a songwriter with a talent for an attractive melody. This was a case of the latter, I think.

Poor Moon played all the songs from its recently released “Illusion” EP: the gently oscillating guitar of the title track, the pretty harmonies of “Anyplace,” the jangling pop-charm of “People In Her Mind.” They nailed the acrobatic vocal parts on “Widow,” a song that unmistakably recalls Fleet Foxes or Simon and Garfunkel. Well, both.

The band also played a bunch of other songs that I didn’t know but sounded basically like the ones from the EP. (A full-length album is due in August.) It was all very … nice.

After the set, someone asked me what I thought, and that’s what I said: They were nice. But they were better than nice. The truth is, free concerts don’t always feature top-quality acts, so it was a real treat to kick off this year’s Summer Sundays series with a band not only spilling over with talent, but adept at a sound that fit the circumstances like a glove. The band wasn’t perfect, but they were perfect. You know what I’m saying?

Anyway, I guess I did have something to say about the show. Now go check out the rest of the Summer Sundays lineup, the best one I can remember.

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