Last night at The Crocodile, three beautiful bands brought their blends of melodic folk to the stage. , indie-folk rockers from Seattle, WA opened the night – their must-hear E.P. A Bud Has Bloomed will be released sometime Fall 2012.
Second up were Paper Bird of Colorado, bringing double bass, guitar, banjo, drums, and three delightful vocalists. Upbeat harmonies made for fun folk the crowd could sway and dance to. The singers were visibly enjoying performing, laughing, hugging, and dancing with each other on stage. Their silly excitement was apparent in such quotes as, “I will shave every one of you, just part of your leg, nothing crazy. Come on Seattle, live a little!” This followed an excited announcement that their new album will be coming out soon, and based on their performance, it’s not to be missed.
Y La Bamba’s presence was felt the moment the Portland band took the stage. All six members — Luz, Ben, Mike, Eric, Paul, and Scott — have an incredibly centered air as they begin to play, deeply connecting with the harmonies and progressions they create. The 14-song set included key tracks from their first two releases Lupon and Court the Storm, as well as a sprinkling of new songs in the works. One new one, listed only as “Death” on the set list, featured a wonderful accordion finish from Eric, a multi-instrumentalist dabbling in accordion, xylophone, castanets, triangle, and wood blocks. Each member also picks up extra instruments throughout the set, ranging from tambourine to mandolin.
The most characteristic instrument of all is Luz’s voice, swinging and swaying over the melodies, expanding and contracting, even foraying into Spanish on some tracks. Luz dedicated the soulful and explosive track “Michoacán” to her Mexican parents. These Latin influences are finely intertwined with the band’s blend of Northwest art folk. Another high energy track is “Bendito” off the second album, whose rock-tango vibe had the crowd shimmying around. “Ponce Pilato” is a gentle head-nodder inspiring imagery of migrations, its repetitions resonating long after it ends.
Court the Storm’s haunting love song of a title track was played last. It sweeps up its listeners into a captivating epic, reminiscent of Joanna Newsom’s sophomore release Ys. Like much of Y La Bamba’s music, it’s complicated and dark, but steadily moves upwards, carrying one out into the light.