Country, but not too much country, is in. On Thursday, September 12, bands Bigtree Bonsai and Red Daughters played their indie sets with nods to the past.
Following guitar/producer duo Negative Breach, Bigtree Bonsai opened with songs from their first full-length, dropping in December. These songs varied, fitting in with current acts Band of Horses and Avett Brothers, accented with grooves and solos that remind me of favorite Zepplin and Skynyrd tracks.
Having added to the building-to-a-soar rhythm section heart-forward lyrics that only occasionally borrow from clichés and huge three- and four-part harmonies, Bigtree Bonsai has produced memorable and affecting tracks like “The Game” and “Rain in the Wintertime,” that bring chills and all.
It’s good, appealing whiskey music, whether that whiskey’s sipped at a UMN frat party, while barhopping in Northeast, or around a Boundary Waters campfire.
Andrea Swensson said of them, “I’ve been starved for music with grit and teeth lately, and [“Black Iron”] by Bigtree Bonsai appealed to me right away for that reason. They’re a little country, a little blues, a little stomp-y, but not in a contrived way. I definitely want to check these guys out live.”
Having fielded a much smaller crowd than the headliners Red Daughters, Bigtree Bonsai needs more of that, though it should be easy if they can, like in Swensson’s case, just get their music into your hands.
Finishing the night was the often—and rightly—hailed Red Daughters. But in that common praise, I think they’ve been mischaracterized. Reviews and write ups comparing Red Daughters to Cream or the Band hear the jangling country that rises in many of their songs, but in the end ignore recent music trends. Red Daughters members came up during the late 90s and early 2000s return of garage rock, popularized by bands The Strokes, The Hives, and The (International) Noise Conspiracy, that last one particularly shows through in Red Daughters’ new song “Black Ice.” Clearly, that zeitgeist seeped into their sonic lobes.
Like Red Daughters, those young bands also pulled from 60s rock and roll through the 70s psychedelics. At times Red Daughters sound like, sure, Cream, but also the Beatles, Santana, Tom Waits in his Heart of Saturday Night era, and The Kingsmen. It seems silly to talk only about an era nearly 50 years gone when Red Daughters have contemporaries that share their sound. And when Red Daughters dump fun, poppy guitars on their grooving audience—when in many songs the only tether between them and the 60s is the long, scraggily hair, three-quarter length Ts, and wide brimmed leather hats.
Despite any inflated characterizations, Red Daughters are excellent. Their songs are familiar and loose in a way that made me fall into them and ride them live waves, forgetting they were songs at all. They shook and shimmied on the Triple Rock’s stage while their fans swayed along. Like their influences, Red Daughters look like they’re having a blast—a welcome relief from the anxieties during the height of the Cold War or in a post-9/11 world.
In addition to warm, welcoming music, they punctuated their set with well-managed stage banter every few songs, including the interlude when Red Daughters popcorned cries of “Hail Satan,” a quote from Tenacious D’s song “Double Team,” released on their self-titled album in 2001.
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