Music like the music that Ezra Bell makes is living proof that not all musicians need to hide behind heavy effects: fuzz, distortion, reverb, and even auto-tune to make music that people really enjoy listening to, and that was very apparent at their EP release last Wednesday. They played alongside the Bevelers and Fanno Creek, gracing Mississippi Studios with some deeply beautiful, danceable and heartfelt tunes.
The Bevelers played first as the crowd filtered in, and although the two-piece group has a soft demeanor, it was impossible not to pay attention. The foundation of their whole set is their two beautiful voices creating harmonies so sad and lovely at the same time that you want to get lost in the world that their voices create.
Ezra Bell played second in the evening when attendance was at its peak, kicking off their set with a few familiar songs. Ezra Bell is such a complex machinery of humans and instruments and it seems like having 7 people on stage, something shouldn’t work about their set-up. But everything works. Their music is complicated yet not cacophonous, focusing more on interesting sound pairings than everyone fighting for focus. Even the bass and drums took turns being the lead rhythmic force of a song, which felt uncommon, but was just one of many facets of their music that sets them apart from other folk-pop bands around Portland and beyond.
The audience at Mississippi Studios was stoked to see them, cheering loudly between songs and singing along with their older music, which sounds every bit as tight as their recordings. It’s rare that a local band can get an entire audience to dance along rather than stand stoically, arms crossed, but it’s really hard not to dance when you listen to them.
Fanno Creek ended the night with a surfier, and less folk influenced set by comparison. Ezra Bell was the ideal middle point between Fanno Creek and the Bevelers because unlike the previous bands, Fanno Creek is heavier and more bluesy. They were the perfect choice to end the night though, because, despite a big chunk of the audience leaving, those who stayed were ready to dance and Fanno Creek is dance-y as hell.
Together, all three bands were a match made in lineup heaven, giving the crowd a solid range of folk and pop music to groove along to all night long. You can check out Ezra Bell’s new EP, We Came by Canoe here:
- Photos and story by Sarah Eaton