Dry The River

Obama won again, which is great. Bruce Springsteen helped, maybe the Boss will run for president in 2016. Which would be even greater. Lets’ start a #Springsteen2016 ttwitter campaign now.
Judging from the bulk of tweets from UK it looks this country would love to get rid of Europe altogether and apply to be the 51st of the United States by the next Presidential campaign. Everyone seem far more excited to support USA democratic politics, wonder why they vote for Tories when it comes to British ballots, weird people yo are. I wrote this thought, the Quietus just wrote it better.

Rock music is progressive, well known, hence it has started to indicate such a direction in advance.
If someone had convinced me to bet anything about Dry The River being American or English I would have lost my house.
When I read on Wikipedia that they are a band from East London, I didn’t believe it. Control freak as I am, I double checked if there wasn’t another band with the same name.

Welcome to the ‘Web Wide World’.

Internet is the place where ideas exchange happens these days. Not even Internet, actually, it’s social networks. There is no Ocean, no frontier, no barrier in arts. There may be a hindrance left when it is about language, poetry or literature but, as long as it concerns music, photography, visual arts, the “country of origin”, “city of birth” is freedom land.
Our origins are mere personal details of interest to the office releasing your passport.

Today New Zealander bands plays British 60s psychedelia (Tame Impala anyone?). The Killers, from Las Vegas, debuted with a Brit Pop album. Interpol from Brooklyn started as a Joy Division clone. Japanese bands play shoegaze and post-rock, Touareg guitarists play the blues.
In my ‘web wide world’ Dry The River, who are from Stratford, the now world famous Olympic village site in East London, play Americana. The kind of alt.folk that would have made SubPop, Seattle and Vancouver talent scouts titillating five years ago.

If I paid more attention I would remember BBC sound of 2012 panel shortlisted Dry The River as one of the most promising newcomers. On my defence, it must be said that the best artist voted out of the BBC list was Michael Kiwanuka, which never impressed me. To say BBC is not exactly my main source for music info.

I am not good at memory and since my first stream (we don’t listen to music anymore, we stream it) of Dry The River debut album, Shallow Bed, I believed they were walking the same footpath in the middle of the same forest Band Of Horses, Fleet Foxes and flannel, beardy people shot their videos and press packages.

I wasn’t so wrong, to be honest. Despite Stratford is down on their passports, Dry The River musical soul lays in those northern American woods.
Reading about them, I discover the members come from Hardcore and Power pop. An insight I find revealing when after multiple plays of the Shallow Bed a more intricate texture starts to emerge in the songs.

The music press split on them leaving a gap as wide as the Atlantic. The American reviews tend to be sceptical. It is not news that anytime someone follows down their route, keeping an edge with the UK pop origins destabilize the natives.
USA music, actually, online press either accepts bands to be plain British (Radiohead) or to renounce to any British-ness to embrace the stars and stripes wholly and faithfully. Yes, I mean Mumford and Sons are shit. The ‘Web Wide World’ (third and last time, promise) doesn’t fit with this grand design.

UK music aficionados, even more in East London, elevate to the emphatic role of “Next big thing” anything that in the last couple of years sounded American. If it grew a beard, has the world river or a subspecies of bear in the band and hired a fiddle player would be perfect. Which is where part of the misunderstanding comes.

Dry The River aren’t exempt. From Instagram to Twitter, from Facebook to Soundcloud (world has changed, these are the media) I have been informed about their ascent through photos, streams, concert snaps, youtube videos, links.

Dry The River added a date at the Junction in Cambridge, actually, they opened the new tour at the Junction. It is a good chance to see them and, eventually, get some photos published. In the good old times the opening date of a tour was the one papers review to launch the tour.
You know the story, good old days are long gone, nowadays 95% of gig reviews are from London shows. The hottest ones happen midweek. There are not good concerts in London in the weekend because music reviewers don’t bother to renounce to a festivity to review a gig.

To complete the American scenario, when Pete Liddle the band leader came on stage with his pals, his flannel shirt, blonde long hairs he reminded me of Christopher Owens of Girls.
The line-up completes as you expect. Acoustic guitar, barefoot, violin, beards, lot of microphones for vocal harmonies, hippies haircut, vintage instruments, charity shop t-shirts. There is everything for the expectations of the canonical “2012-Indie-hippie-folker”. Most are from East London even if not as far-east as Stratford.

It’s when the music starts that I understand there is more. It comes from the English background. Hints of Englishness from Radiohead to Noah and the Wales. Melody and boisterous guitar excursions. A big sound that would scare bears in the surrounding forest but appeals to hipsters in the surrounding bars. Songs end in crescendos, somehow manage to be uplifting in their melancholy.

Instead of the boring ritual of end fake end/encore, the concert comes to a close with the band stepping off the stage, to get into the crowd with guitars and percussions. Cosy, hence intimate hence nice in the hipster’s vocabulary.

They sing an a cappella version of Shaker Hymns with no amplification. It’s one of those delicate moments. It also marks the vicinity between hippies and Scouts campfires. Where’s the barrier is to be defined.

Surely it proved that if a crowd wants, it can be in silence listening to a song. What it did also prove is that even when asked, a crowd cannot refrain from using their smartphones. Even for just a song, it’s an addiction now out of control.

Dry The River UK tour has just come to a close, if you haven’t caught them live, you can catch up online at [website][facebook][twitter][spotify]

Photo tip

Someone asked, actually many asked me, what camera I use for shooting concerts. Since I stopped working on film with my few Contax, I always used a D700.

The Amanda Palmer show I published in the previous post, signed a landmark moment on my D700 history. I lost the piece of rubber that falls under the thumb of the right hand. The other in the front left is about to say hello and depart from the camera too. Not sure where and if I can get them replaced. (anyone?)

Yes I used this camera a lot and in the least camera friendly environments. From Burma dry region (45+degrees) to some well below zero situations. From beer throwing gigs to dusty open air music festivals. From the largest human gathering on earth, don’t know among how many millions people, to the tiniest show without pit but with plenty of fans. Over just about 3 years it fell off my bag and I even fell off my scooter with it around my neck.

It’s torn, old, used but it works. I can’t think of a more solid piece of digital equipment I ever handled. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of pictures it took, but I can tell you they are very many. It keeps going. Never failed one, rather, I failed many. I fear that moment it will stop working.

Despite a D800, I still cover gigs with the smaller sister. 36MP are a pain to process. The high ISO of the D700 are probably better than the D800 (not bothered to do comparisons) and to talk friendly, no one not even National Geographic as ever asked for a file 7000+px long.

I don’t know what I will do when it dies. The alternative are either to buy a new computer and start using the D800 or to look for a D700 left somewhere. The D4 looks almost perfect but it’s huge and painfully expensive. I wished Nikon produced a stripped down version of the D4 at some point the same way it did with the D3/D700 but markeintg took a different direction. The D600 doesn’t appeal me.

Photo Tip here is. If you buy sturdy professional gear, don’t be too worried to keep it clean and shiny, be worry to take great photos. It will work with the dust and you can retouch those sensor spots at home. Pro gear is expensive also because of this, you can mistreat them and they keep working.

~ by Valerio on November 8, 2012.

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