Jayber Crow opened the show with their foot-stomping brand of driving folk-pop. The crowd was small, given the concert's timing on a Sunday evening, the lack of promotion around campus and the group's fledgling status.
But light attendance never stopped Jayber Crow from rocking. The band's sound has gotten better over the last year. While this set didn't have some of the extraneous instruments present on their studio record, their sound was still robust and engaging. The duo, Pete Nelson 04 and Zach Hawkins (a Luther graduate whom Jayber Crow enthusiasts from St. Olaf have come to accept as one of their own), have grown more active and exciting to watch as performers.
Alongside strong performances of songs from their The Farmer and the Nomad E.P. and live show staples O My God, When I Drop Dead and What Poets Know, Nelson and Hawkins treated the audience to some new songs. One such song was a yet-unnamed geology-themed piece. It retained the classic guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies that make the band so likeable, but also had a bit more of a severe-sounding edge. It was more mature, but still very characteristic of the group's work so far. The Limited Voice of the American Crow, a new song with an epic chorus of Glory / Gloria! made a well-received appearance.
Jason Anderson, a.k.a. Wolf Colonel, played the second and final set. I always forget how much I enjoy him whenever I see him. I attribute this to the fact that Anderson's recordings don't capture the energy and spirit of his live shows as well as Jayber Crow's recordings do, making it easy to forget how dynamic and sweet he is as a performer.
Much of Anderson's set consisted of stripped-down versions of his recorded songs. The one guy and a guitar nature of his live performances does him a lot of favors. On album, he's a good artist. He has lovely lyrics, but his writing and musical performance isn't that impressive. Having nothing to hide behind in a live show forces him to pack his punches with energy and passion.
Anderson performed from a rickety old chair, inviting his audience to get closer and closer, until they were within what I have dubbed the danger zone a circle around Anderson where you're likely to be hit with a flailing limb or swinging guitar. He constantly asked the audience to shout lyrics back at him, to repeat nonsense phrases and to sing the most tender lines over and over again. Anderson is wide-eyed and genuine; hardly a soul hesitated in obliging his requests to sing at the top of their lungs. This gentle, friendly charisma is at the heart of Anderson's likeability as an artist and performer.
Anderson filled the room with joy and appreciation for music and others. After profusely thanking the audience for coming out to share such a special night with him, Anderson closed the show on a sweet note with one last sing-along for the small crowd, this one promising that if we keep our ears to the sky, we will hear the universe say, I love you.