A fellow Bulletin-ite, Scott Johnson, shot some video of Vetiver’s show Friday night at Silver Moon Brewing & Taproom in Bend. Here’s the band doing “Rolling Sea,” and my mini-review is after the clip:
In last week’s article on Vetiver in GO! Magazine, I called the band’s “Tight Knit” album “one of the best albums of 2009 so far.” And I still think that’s true, but it might be a tad misleading. Because while I do think “Tight Knit” is very good, I don’t know that it has the kind of oomph I need from a record, whether it’s loud and rocking or quiet and folky, or somewhere in between. “Tight Knit” is a solid album that shows off a fine songwriter (Andy Cabic) and his very skilled band. It is not, however, a swift punch to the gut, or a slow-burning fire under your butt. The most visceral reaction I can imagine to the record is to close your eyes and smile and nod along.
Vetiver’s live show is the same way. San Francisco-based Cabic and his backing quartet sounded great Friday night in a stuffy Silver Moon. They played and sang their songs well, and the crowd — a good-sized crowd, I thought, though it was definitely not full — seemed appreciative. Vetiver effortlessly (and I use that word with purpose) wandered from folksy pop to blues jams to honky tonk, rarely straying far from a fairly languid pace. Even rarer was a change in expression on any of the musicians’ faces. Yeah, they looked a little bored, a little sleepy. But I think my assumption that they were just deep into the music is a safe one. I hope it is.
The band picked songs from each of its four records; highlights, in my mind, were the labyrinthine “Luna Sea,” the tight, 1960s-ish bop of “More of This,” and the gorgeous “Maureen,” featuring the clearest, most perfect harmonies of the night. Occasionally, they’d channel the Grateful Dead and linger on a jam for just a bit too long. Vetiver closed (save a one-song encore I don’t remember) with a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Hey Doll Baby,” which sounded about how you’d expect: classic pop-rockabilly shuffle filtered through a sun-baked, summer-of-love P.O.V. It didn’t rock, exactly, but it was probably the most upbeat number of the night.
I only wish we’d seen that level of energy just a few more times, but it’s clear Cabic is very happy and very comfortable doing the easygoing, country/soft-rock thing. And no matter what you thought of Vetiver’s spunk, it’s also clear they’re very good at what they do.