Live Review: Shearwater with Small Sur at Metro Gallery, Baltimore, MD – 27th February 2012

By on Monday, 5th March 2012 at 2:00 pm

I don’t often venture north to Baltimore, Maryland for music, but whenever I do I am usually greeted with an exceptional and relatively intimate performance. Being just north of Washington DC, Baltimore is not on the map for most artists when they look at the U.S. mid-Atlantic states. Turns out there are wonderful small venues hidden throughout the city. So I traveled the hour north on an unseasonably warm February Monday night to an art gallery in the middle of the city to see Austin band Shearwater for the first time.

Clearly Metro Gallery know what they are doing. There was a proper stage, a professionally staffed merch table,and an excellent bar. Oh, and an interesting art installation. I was most taken with the stage back drop which, upon further inspection, turned out to be a graphic design done entirely in duct tape.

The support, local band Small Sur, started to a very sparse crowd. In a move I have never seen before, the crowd moved from the back and *sat on the floor* at the base of the stage. Yes, the band were chill. Yes, there were oriental carpets on the floor. But sitting on the floor at a gig? But it worked. Lead singer Bob Keal told us that most of the songs they were playing were being recorded for their new album, so they were “in recording shape, but not necessarily performing shape”. I don’t think that marred their set at all. Joined by Andy Abelow on keys and Austin Stahl on drums, the band kept the audience rapt with Keal’s soothing voice When Abelow added saxophone, it lent the music an understated complexity. I hope for good things for this band and will keep my eye on them, they’ve even already had a run at Europe, colour me impressed.

Shearwater took the stage to a now standing crowd and shook the night quickly with a rousing version of ‘Animal Life’, the first song on their just released sixth album ‘Animal Joy’. The stand out of the evening for me was ‘Open Your Houses’, a flowing swirling piece which lead singer Jonathan Meiburg admitted afterwards that we had been the guinea pigs for that song’s first live outing. I feel lucky to have served that purpose. The other chest-shakingly wonderful song was ‘Insolence’, complete with the bass thudding out the intro. In fact, I was well impressed with bassist Christian Mader’s playing throughout the set.

The current single, ‘Breaking the Yearling’, had a downright creepy video that accompanied it. But the museum where it was filmed objected to the content and had it taken down. I can attest to the creepiness but I am disappointed that the museum would make such a complaint. There is a single unauthorised version of it still out there if you want to take a peek:


Near the end of the set the shout went out “where’s Thor?” The band responded, “ah, the ‘Freebird’ question of the night”. It seems that regular drummer Thor Harris had just come off an 18-month tour with another band and preferred to stay at home and garden instead of trek out again. But drummer Danny Reisch was perfect in his place, even showing off the drum pad contribution from Thor himself that was going to be used in the next song. Mitch Billeaud (guitar and keys), and Lucas Oswald (synth) round out the touring band.

Meiburg closed the night with ‘White Waves’ from their 2006 release ‘Palo Santo’ and sent us all out into the warm night buzzing with the extraordinary sounds of Shearwater vibrating through our heads.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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