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Wovenhand & SubRosa played Saint Vitus (pics, review)

About halfway through their headlining set to a sold out Saint Vitus crowd, Wovenhand ran into a minor technical hiccup. David Eugene Edwards, the group’s frontman and creative nucleus, suddenly disappeared from the mix, his microphone on the fritz. The rest of the band quickly leapt into action, dressing a bed of ambience while Edwards tinkered with his equipment. While longtime fans probably noticed the disruption immediately, the band’s sharp instincts may have tricked newcomers into believing that the change was intentional until a sound hand scampered up to fix the mic. Moreover, they seemed willing to go to that level of abstraction with Wovenhand, whether they meant to end up there or not. Edwards had earned their trust.

Live music requires trust between the audiences and the performer. The artist is giving their time, and in return the artist expects at least the audience’s attention. If the audience thinks that the artist is mishandling their time, their ability to trust the decisions behind the music dwindles. Wovenhand’s confidence and the unmistakeable “themness” of their music made them an easy act for the Brooklyn crowd to latch on to. Those who couldn’t hack it knew early and made way for those that could, and the band rewarded them for their patience.

Openers Nathaniel Shannon & The Vanishing Twin had yet to command that distinction, an early “How you doing tonight?” from Shannon was mostly met with silence, but considering it was the band’s first show they faced an uphill battle to begin with. Still, Shannon didn’t back down from the challenge, and played his guitar with a sincere physicality, and The Vanishing Twin backing band pulled off a build up that turned their laid-back psych rock legitimately heavy for a spell. Those earn them a second glance at a later date, which is a respectable victory for any first show.

SubRosa, on the other hand, accomplished the more impressive feat of turning me from a casual fan to a an unabbreviated fanatic. The Utah band’s mournful and unabashedly melodic take on doom had always been one that I admired from some emotional distance, but their performance made short work of that gap. Beginning with the intimate near silence of “Black Majesty,” SubRosa drew the crowd in with their restraint and Rebecca Vernon’s deliberate vocals. When they unleashed the full extent of their low-end power, even a rush of feedback could hamper their soul rendering impact. In person, both elements of the band’s sound — their folksy sense of melody aided by effects laden strings and their skull rattling riff writing — are amplified to the nth degree. More importantly, they work in tandem; each lends to the other, and both synthesize into a single overwhelming sound.

After SubRosa, Wovenhand’s desert boogie felt like the product of another world. Though the band rested on a consistent formula — songs starting groove-first with bass and drums before building to a guitar-centric rumble — Edwards’ charisma as a performer kept the set engaging throughout. Edwards carries himself as if he’s always on the verge of entering a trance, hands fluttering, head reeling, which made his song’s dalliances with the surreal all the more appropriate. Wovenhand remained earth bound, but they always threatened pull away from the stage and float towards something more transcendent, taking their trusting audience with them towards the skies.

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