There are a few ways of getting your name into the music press headlines, with some methods a whole lot better than others. If you didn’t bother to click the first link, the random meeting between folk/jazz/psychster guitarist Ryley Walker and jam band/bro-deity Dave Matthews wasn’t totally random. The mercurial and always questioning Walker decided to dust off a well circulated but never released bootleg of Dave Matthews recordings from nearly two decades ago, and through happenstance of both bands touring, Montreal became the unexpected summit location.
But Walker and his crack band of fluid and loose ensemble didn’t (to my knowledge anyway, but my DMB databank is pretty sparse) play of these songs and instead focused on his last few records. And it wasn’t just rote readings, the kind where sometimes you’re better off just staying home and putting on the LPs instead of schlepping off to the rock club to see an exact replica unfold in front of you.
The last time we caught Walker was just a few months ago, and the lineup was an economical trio. Tonight the addition of Brian Sulpizio on guitar allowed Walker’s songs much more real estate to travel within, around and across. The penultimate song of the night, “On The Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee” sailed directly into a galaxy full of dark stars, making me ponder the world where Sulpizio’s modal runs and the loosely swinging rhythm section of Ryan Jewell and Andrew Scott Young connect deeply to my inner hippie, yet the vast majority of what Garcia et al did leaves me as cold as the far reaches of outer space.
The evening’s recap wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that, not unlike shows from the likes of Neko Case, Melvins, Jeff Tweedy, etc, you get a healthy dose of comedy via stage banter as well. Walker was riffing on the best bands of Boston, settling on The Swirlies until someone reminded him of perhaps a more viable option, and at one point the noise of the rest room hand dryer became the foundation for a short improv noise jam by the quartet. Walker may be a lot of things, but boring is never one of them.
Preceding Walker was Mute Duo, hailing from Chicago. They were a two piece but certainly not soundless. Comprised solely of a pedal steel guitar and a drummer/percussionist, Sam Wagster and Skyler Rowe managed to create a wide array of tones and sounds that were evocative of late ’60s Pink Floyd, or Grails when their third eye was particularly open. Anchoring the sheening drone of Wagster, the incredibly inventive Rowe used every part of his kit including tapping cymbal stands and the barrel of the kick drum, adding in chimes, bells and other elements to the mix. They had a sole CD for sale at the merch table and I’m eager to hear more.
Photos from the performance:
Created with flickr slideshow.