Sunday, February 8, 2009

Paul Jacobsen & The Madison Arm, The Devil Whale at The Star Bar in Park City

While rather warm and dreary down in the Salt Lake Valley this past Saturday night, Park City was clouded in fog as the last night of CWMA’s showcases got under way at The Star Bar

On the bill for the evening was singer-songwriter Paul Jacobsen & The Madison Arm with The Devil Whale to follow. It seems fitting that the closing night of the CWMA’s just also happened to be the finale of the two-week tour that these two bands have been enjoying together. At separate times both bands joked that the tour started in Utah County at Velour and incorporated a bunch of down time—which makes absolute sense since that show and the showcase combined was the total tour.

After a bit of a late start due to what can only be deemed as the all-encompassing technical difficulties, Paul Jacobsen & The Madison Arm (which on this evening consisted of a backing trio playing guitars, pianos and random percussive instruments) took the stage. Although not familiar with Paul Jacobsen before he started playing, his sound immediately rang recognizable and honest. Some of the most memorable moments of the show came via the trashcan style drumming on the likes of several old bass drums, a lonely snare and a tambourine sitting upon a worn suitcase—all deftly played with brushes, mallets and bare hands alike. The vocal harmonies were always forefront while paired with a soft acoustical guitar or a plaintive piano (as in the cover of CSN&Y’s “Helpless”). Paul Jacobsen lists his influences as Neil Young, Elliott Smith and Wilco and although one might be able to hear those artists at times, Saturday’s set for me was far more reminiscent of Damien Rice or The Frames’ Glen Hansard turn in Swell Season.

Following on the heels of Jacobsen was The Devil Whale. Although I have had the opportunity to see lead singer Brinton Jones play solo recently, I haven’t had the chance to catch The Devil Whale for a while—in fact it was probably back when they were known as Palomino. It was good to hear Jones’ heart-drenching pop-balladry backed by a band again mainly due to the fact that The Devil Whale aren’t afraid to turn it up and let loose a simply constructed song out into far braver pastures. Many of the tunes began with the typical Jones’s song construct of rhythm guitar and a back beat punctuated with his lyrical pop melodies singing such enquiring lines as, “Are you ready to be an accomplice?” But, as with the sad waltz dripping with melancholy that they played later in their set, each song inevitably ended with high emotive strumming and playful dissonance. Wrapping both the evening and the CWMA showcases, The Devil Whale played a song apparently about anarchy with a chorus that seemed only appropriate, “I wanna watch you float away…”

(Jacob Stringer)

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