Volcano Choir Crescent Ballroom 1/17/14
Volcano Choir gave Phoenix a bit of a treat last night -- the first stop on the band's short west coast tour. Their Crescent Ballroom concert on Friday night was sold out well ahead of time and could have very well been moved to a larger venue. Thankfully, it wasn't.
The intimate setting was perfect for the experimental, folksy, and post-rock sounds of Volcano Choir, and the highly anticipated show exceeded expectations of fans and anyone crossing their fingers for a Bon Iver song.
It's impossible not to draw parallels to Bon Iver -- both bands are signed to Jagjaguwar, feature Justin Vernon, and sound quite beautiful. Bon Iver runs a higher risk of blending into the background, and while Volcano Choir has some of the same moments, last night's show was hardly background music.
Volcano Choir played loud, showcasing the band's nuances. Vernon may be the singer, but the show was by no means about him. The attention was equally focused on the band, as the focus shifted from percussion, to guitar, to gang vocals throughout the evening. If anything, guitarist Chris Rosenau was the band's unofficial spokesperson.
Early on, he was taken aback by the interactive crowd. "You're welcome to sing with us anytime," he said. "If you came with us [on tour] for the next 10 days, we'd be set."
An early stand out song was the unreleased song "Valleyinaire." Songs like "Tiderays" and "Islands, IS" helped build up to this rock-oriented song. I'd love to hear Volcano Choir release more songs like this on its next album.
The last half of the show turned into the singalong portion, as the crowd reveled in songs like "Alaskans" and "Acetate."
Volcano Choir closed out its primary set with "Still," which is the song sampled on Kanye West's "Lost in the World." The looped, auto-tuned vocals of this song sounded fuller and larger in person, and were a great way to kick off the encore.
"Youlogy" may seem like an odd way to end the show, but the results were stunning and cathartic. Vernon's vocals sounded fantastic over the crashing cymbals and droning tones, as if a group of Wisconsin monks were guiding the crowd through meditation.
At the beginning of the show, one of my friends mouthed a request for "Skinny Love." Most of us were likely hoping for at least a Bon Iver song or two, but as the show progressed, all of the attention was on Volcano Choir. And I can't say we were disappointed.
Setlist: Tiderays Island, IS Comrade Valleyinaire Keel Dancepack Alaskans Acetate Byegone Still Almanac (encore) Youlogy (encore)
Last Night: Volcano Choir at Crescent Ballroom.
Personal Bias: I'm more of a Bon Iver fan, but can already say that I like Volcano Choir a bit more now after seeing them live.
The Crowd: Flannel, lots of flannel.
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Overheard in the Crowd: "If I ever met Justin Vernon, I'd just ask a million questions about Kanye."