Angel Olsen @ The CedarMay 02, 2014
On May 1st, 2014, Angel Olsen put on a crazy awesome show at the Cedar Cultural Center.
THE AWFUL TRUTH
Fresh local act The Awful Truth started things off around 7:30 with a low-key folk rock set of songs inspired by the band’s uprooting from Utah to Minnesota. Guitarist Brent Colbert took care of the vocal responsibilities for the crew, while Laurie Geving stagnantly thumped away on her Paul McCartney electric bass. The second half of the four-piece consisted of Stephen Lindquist, who may have been the happiest person to ever play the drums, and Stephen Sokolouski who added a little extra flavor with his cello.
Most of the set consisted of rather melancholy songs that seemed like they belonged tucked deep in the Minnesota Northwood. Songs like Lakewater touched specifically on the transition to living in a new place, and brought up remembrances of the Great Salt Lake from Colbert. He even went on to touch on the brine shrimp that make up nearly the lake’s entire ecosystem, although according to him they aren’t really even shrimp. (They aren’t, by the way. Thanks Google.)
Sea life aside, The Awful Truth performed a really tight set that played very well off of the contrast of electric guitar and soothing cello. Birthright, a song from their 2012 album of the same name, served as the most upbeat song of the evening, and was one of the last two they played in the set, both of which showcased the band’s ability to jam out a little bit.
PROMISED LAND SOUND
After a brief set from The Awful Truth, Tennessee natives Promised Land Sound took the stage to fill our ear holes with some country fried Indie Rockabilly (Indiebilly?). It was clear right off the bat that this group was made up of some very skilled musicians, three of which took positions at the front of the stage to help each other out with vocal harmonies. Nearly every lyric of their set was sung by two or more of the front men, adding an extra element of difficulty to their already impressive musicianship.
There was an obvious southern influence in not only the vocals, but also in the heavily bluesy guitar work. Featuring two electric guitars, there was plenty of room for intricate counterpoint as well as solo work from lead guitarist Sean Thompson. Thompson’s skills were on display on nearly every song, whether using heavy “wa-wa” effects pedals, or meticulously navigating his glass slide along his guitars slender neck.
Bass player Joseph Scala offered most of the lead vocals, while continuing to bring the low end of the band’s southern sound. There were several moments that brought to mind early Beatles, mainly because of the strong three part harmonies, while other times brought to mind the Grateful Dead, mostly during their longer jams. Comparisons aside, this group puts on a rocking show, and their music seems fitted for a long road trip through the Appalachians.
I would not have been surprised if Angel Olsen didn’t smile during the entirety of her performance, but surprise surprise, Angel treated the large crowd at the Cedar Cultural Center to lots of giggles, smiles, and quips. Oh, and she played some awesome music too. With full band in tow, oft serious looking Angel took the stage in a blue “Stray Dogs” baseball T-shirt jersey and her black Gibson electric guitar. Her adorable smile showed its face after the first song when guitarist Stewart Bronaugh had issues with his amplifier and required assistance on stage from the tech guy.
After a quick break, the band got rolling again and began working their way through Angel’s sophomore album “Burn Your Fire For No Witness.” The group seemed very comfortable together and their chemistry was obvious in their playing. Bassist Emily Elhaj (the mommest looking bass player I’ve ever seen) calmly provided the low end of the sound, while drummed Joshua Jaeger kept time, but was often in the shadows during the bands frequent ballads. Bronaugh was able to bring some flair to the set with his masterfully effortless guitar parts that showed his technical ability. Having a full band added greatly to songs like Acrobat, which is a solo track on the album.
We did get to see some solo performances, however, as the members of the band not named Angel went on hiatus for four songs that ended the set. Standing alone on stage with her guitar and piercing dark eyes, Angel showcased just how beautiful her music can be. She was able to flex her vocals during her solo repertoire, which ranged from longing baritone to her unmistakable quivering soprano. Her ability to switch between these two styles in an instance was remarkable, and her vocal performance on the whole was extremely impressive. After leaving the stage, the crowd mustered up enough enthusiasm to get the full band back on stage for an encore, where they played a rousing rendition of Stars.
Something that occurs at every concert when you see someone you really, really like is the moment or two when their eyes glance over the crowd, and come very close, if not directly to yours. This fleeting moment when you imagine that someone you look up to saw you and maybe even acknowledged your existence in his or her head is fantastic, and always gives me butterflies. With Angel Olsen, that moment nearly made me pass out. It was a moment that lasted several seconds, each one intensifying that nervous feeling where you just hope that you don’t look stupid. Then she gave one of her little giggles into the microphone mid song, and my heart nearly exploded. There’s just something about Angel.