While the world reeled from the attacks on the French capital, people here in the States did whatever they could to find solace amidst the chaos. Some went home, some drank to numb the pain. I found myself knocking back a gin and tonic at the edge of the stage at Baby’s All Right waiting for the double header of Tuskha and MADE OF OAK to numb my fear and anger.
As the clock struck 12:30am, Phil Moore emerged from the green room looking quite different from the last time I saw him. If you aren’t familiar, Phil is one half of the North Carolina based folk outfit, Bowerbirds. Free of his long locks and abundant facial hair, his new music outlet Tuskha was also a departure from his base band. Playing electronic beats with the help of a few synths and a laptop seated at his feet, Phil’s signature vocals hadn’t changed at all, I happily found out. Tuskha’s music was completely foreign to the crowd, despite one song he recently released called “The Program,” but that didn’t matter. Everyone just wanted to get lost in something and this was the perfect solution. The chatty atmosphere at the back of the room during the opening songs quieted to a hush once the band hit their stride mid-set.
Bleary eyed, and mildly tipsy at 1:30am, MADE OF OAK aka Nick Sanborn finally took the stage to a healthy amount of applause. For someone who has just released his debut EP consisting of merely five songs, most of the fans in the room were clearly fans of his main band, Sylvan Esso. While Amelia Meath’s vocals over Nick’s production are a match made in heaven, there’s a ton to be said about the skill and quality of Sanborn’s solo project. Penumbra, released just last week, is a display of emotion and celebration with elements of subtlety and restraint.
Before beginning his set, Sanborn said a few words about celebrating life and being thankful to enjoy the music in the room, referencing the tragedy in Paris. “Penumbra” was the song he chose to begin his set, and it set the tone for the night perfectly. One of the quieter moments on his album, several people, including Nick and myself, closed our eyes and allowed ourselves to feel everything that this song conveyed. While Penumbra was a reflection point, tracks like “Blue Zipper” knocked the wind out of the audience with the upfront synths, and chest thumping bass, the tinkling bells that punctuate the notes keep the song from drifting too far down darkened paths. “Penultra (When I See You)” happened to be one of my favorite tracks on the EP, mostly because of the beginning static that reminded me so much of the road trips I’d take with my dad as a youngster, and how the radio stations would shift from state to state. On several occasions, he took the time to incorporate lyrics from rappers on top of his beats to help the audience settle into the night. When that settle and release happened, it was in the form of the banger, “Pinebender.” As the music flowed through the crowd, Nick doled out his own emotion onstage, visibly moved by the music. It was one of the most passionate and inspired instrumental DJ-esque set I’ve ever seen, and exactly what I needed. I couldn’t have imagined spending the night anywhere else.
With heightened spirits and renewed faith, Sanborn returned to the stage for his encore, treating us to two new remixed he had done recently with Meath that was the perfect ending to a not so perfect night. I’m sure everyone in the room was just as thankful for Tuskha and MADE OF OAK as I was.
Article: Lesley Keller