Live Review: The Last Bison with Bombadil at Sixth and I Synagogue Downstairs, Washington DC – 14th February 2013

By on Tuesday, 26th February 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

I knew exactly two things going into this gig. First, the Last Bison had asked us to cover a gig last autumn but I had to turn it down because I was already booked. And second, they were local-ish, from about three hours south of Washington DC in Chesapeake, VA. I left later that night from a sold out show feeling jubilant and looking forward to their album coming out next month.

Bombadil Washington live

Durham, North Carolina’s Bombadil opened the night for us looking like a cross between English school boys and matadors. They were fun, but the best word to describe them is clever. I have to admit that I would not sit at home listening to them, but I would eagerly spend another evening in the party like atmosphere of their live show. Reminiscent of They Might Be Giants, the lyrics were witty and the delivery was rapid fire.

Mid-set brought them out in the middle of the floor to sing a cappella a tune in the round that you would have mistaken for an old southern spiritual if you had missed the lyrics, “I’m laying this one down / I ain’t putting you on / Girl I’ll give you ‘til dawn / then you got to get to getting on”. A perfect example of their tunage came in the song ‘A Question’ which was dubbed their ‘Valentine’s song’ for the evening, lyrically all angular and awkward, yet endearingly strummed out on a ukulele.

The Last Bison Washington live

The members of the Last Bison, seven strong, are a part of a community that I happened to be involved with in my ‘other’ life. The Last Bison are siblings Ben and Annah Hardesty, their dad Dan, another sibling set of Andrew and Jay Benfante and friends Amos Housworth and Teresa Totheroh. Turns out they met as homeschoolers in southeastern Virginia. Since I also homeschool my kids, I actually knew people who were familiar with these kids as they grew into this fabulous band. Self-described as ‘mountain-top chamber music’, they further that image with old-timey garb and classic folk instruments like an antique organ and a mandolin. They kicked off their two month North American tour with us in Washington, DC on Valentine’s Day night.

This was an intensely synergistic set, with all the bits were well integrated and no musical element seemed to take the forefront. But it’s Ben Hardesty that really draws you in. A charismatic, amiable frontman, he spoke of backpacking across Europe, befriending a homeless man, and thrift store shopping. Being as this was Valentine’s night, the crowd was clamouring for a love song when suddenly a few notes of Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ snuck out. The quite young crowd went wild. Chagrined that they didn’t have a love song of their own to play, Ben and his dad spent 90 seconds picking out chords and before you knew it, the band was full swing into the cover.

In a move that shows them to be true musicians, they all played a wonderful rendition of ‘Love Song’, complete with harmonies, gorgeous strings underneath and wild audience participation at the few moments when the words were flubbed. And the aforementioned homeless man, Milton? Ben had invited him to the gig, given him a sleeping bag and dedicated their most popular song ‘Switzerland’ to him. (You can hear and grab the song for free below.) A good portion of the crowd had been at that gig I missed a few months ago and he gratefully acknowledged their support. Although hipster-friendly, I got the feeling these guys were the real deal. By the way, Milton really did show up.

With the right effort, I can see this band going far. The wave of alt-folk/Americana music sweeping North America and Europe right now still has room for some fresh voices. With Mumford and Sons’ Grammy win this year, this trend is going nowhere. Folk fatigue may set in eventually, but I predict we still have years to come with this particular brand of music, and frankly, I like it. The Last Bison’s newest album will drop next month, on the 5th of March, on Universal Republic.

The Last Bison will be showcasing at this year’s SXSW; so far their official showcase has been announced to be on Tuesday 12 March at 12 AM at Blackheart.

The Last Bison Washington live 2

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One Response

6:06 pm
26th February 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Live Review: The Last Bison w/ Bombadil at Sixth and I Synagogue Downstairs, Washington DC – 14th Feb 2013: http://t

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