If you aren’t familiar with S. Carey by now, let me be the first to give you a short introduction. From holding down drums, vocals, and keys in Bon Iver, to lending his talents to various works from artists like Gordi, Aero Flynn, The Staves, Owen, and Doe Paoro just to name a few. Now, having released his third solo album titled Hundred Acres, Carey has embarked on a lengthy tour across the states and Europe this spring and fall. Having listened to his latest album incessantly since its release, I was eager to immerse myself in the beauty of those songs in a live setting, and it did not disappoint.
Starting the night in an unusually early packed house at Rough Trade NY, Gordi, the Aussie singer/songwriter with a unconventional voice and remarkable attention to melody and ethereal production had the entire crowd eating out of the palm of her hand. For an artist to truly captivate the crowd the way she did I wouldn’t even dare to call her an opening act. Switching from solo guitars, to keys and harmonium quirkily named “Barbara,” along with some help from loop pedals, Gordi, whose real name is Sophie Payten, wove themes of longing, pain, sadness into something that could only be called beautiful. When Carey’s band came out to join her for a few songs, the added instrumentation was just another layer of gorgeousness that could not be ignored.
Fans of Gordi were delighted to see her come back out on stage for S. Carey’s set, along with Ben Lester on pedal steel, bassist Jeremy Boettcher, and guitarist Zach Hanson. This conglomeration of power players unleashed an assault on everyone within earshot, beginning with the divine, “Hideout.” This song was one of my early favorites, from the shimmering acoustic guitar, to the gracefully layered vocals. The set continued on in similar fashion with songs like “Emery,” showcasing Carey’s skills on vocal and drumming duties as the song reaches its peak. Bits of humor also found their way into his set, with Zach taking a bit of time to tune his guitar, Ben Lester led the band in a surprisingly great, impromptu country jam band, that found its way into the set more than once.
Dipping into his back catalogue, “Alpenglow,” a song I instantly loved from the first time I heard it sounded just as exquisite as it did the first time. Then it happened. I had hoped that a song from Carey’s 2015 EP, Supermoon would appear and it did in the form of a stunning rendition of “In The Stream.” This alternate version of the song, the way it’s delivered, has so many wonderful moments where notes are allowed to hang in the air and resonate. Thankfully Lester’s pedal steel took over the viola parts in the original or I would have been reduced to a withering puddle of tears.
Carey and his band mates had great chemistry with each other, smiles plastered across their faces for the entirety of the night. There’s something comforting and inviting in their presence onstage that lends itself to the quality of the music. Time and time again I found myself just closing my eyes trying to absorb it all – the quiet confidence of Carey’s voice, the imagery of vast mountains, roaring lakes and towering forest and the overall intricacies of the music. I’ve seen Sean perform many times over the years, but each time it’s like seeing him for the first time. Hearing Carey’s music always leaves me hopeful, like cleansing rains that renew the earth and replenish the soil, but being able to hear and see the performance unfold in front of you is what I imagine seeing the splendor of Yellowstone would be like, as Carey mentioned he did as a young boy. Coincidentally, this performance also marked my 37th birthday, and the themes of renewal, hope, and beauty of truly appreciating what’s right in front of you hit home for me in so many ways. It’s an evening I doubt I’ll ever forget.
More I See
In The Stream
I’m Done (lead by Gordi)
Tom Waits cover song
Article: Lesley Keller