[LIVE REVIEW] Woods @ The Earl, 8/8/11

Woods might be best known as the band behind concise, psych-tinged folk-pop tunes like “Rain On,” but they’ve always been a bit more…out there.  Prior to 2009’s Songs of Shame, they were making strange, noisy basement-folk that was largely free of the clean hooks found all over the last three albums.  The basement days might be behind them, but they’ve only cleaned up so much – the lineup still features a full time tape manipulator, and it’s not uncommon for live shows to venture into drawn out psych jams.

Take last night’s show at The Earl.  They opened with their poppiest foot forward, playing spot-on recreations of “Pushing Onlys” and “Suffering Season,” two of their most well known songs.  By the time they reached “I Was Gone,” though, it was clear they were willing to stretch things out a bit.  That song was blown out into an extended psych-rock monster that spent several minutes in the wilderness before the band finally returned to the chorus.  It wasn’t the last time they went off-script, either.

Jeremy Earl’s songwriting might dominate the albums, but that’s definitely not the case on stage.  The rest of the set was split evenly between those two modes, alternately focused and jammy.  Depending on what you want out of this band, that was either a good thing or bad thing.  I personally preferred it.  Their albums are strong, but they tend to get a little samey.  The live approach adds energy.

This was my third time seeing the band, but the first time I was really able to see what tape manipulator G. Lucas Crane was doing.  He has two tape decks running through several effects pedals and what looks like a mixer between them.  When you can see what he’s doing, it’s easier to pick out his contribtuions to the band’s overall sound.  He definitely adds something off-kilter to the mix, even on the straightforward ones.  There’s also that pair of headphones-turned-mic he’s got wrapped around his head, the most visually distinctive aspect of the band and the first thing everyone who’s seen them live seems to mention.

I would have liked to see a longer set, but I can’t really blame the band.  They would have probably liked to see a bigger crowd.  Mondays are tough, particularly when there are thunderstorms, but there was still a surprisingly small turnout.  Shame on us?

By the way – that’s just a stock press photo up there because some asshole stole my camera recently, and iPhone pics from The Earl tend to look pretty bad.

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