decker., Sail Inn, 3/1/13

decker. @ Sail Inn|3/1/13
Sedona-based songwriter Brandon Decker bounced around the Sail Inn like a pinball, shaking hands, raising drinks, and grooving intently to the lineup of bands dueling between two stages. Decker's a humble enough guy, but it was impossible to deny: Last night was his night. The broad smile under his cowboy mustache proved he knew it. The festival-style lineup -- featuring everything from wiry blues rock to electro pop -- was assembled to help celebrate the release of his band's brand new album, Slider.

See also:

-decker., Sail Inn, 3/1/13 (Slideshow) -decker. Probably Isn't Going to Use Kickstarter Ever Again, Even Though It Helped Pay for the Band's Awesome New Album

But Decker and decker. have two very different vibes. Whereas Decker's calm and unassuming, decker. is a stomping, gospel-fried rock 'n' roll unit. Decker was joined by guitarist/vocalist Kelly Cole, bassist Bryant Vazquez, guitarist Dan Allmond, and drummer Michael Leibowitz last night, performing songs from the new album. With a cowboy boot on a tambourine, Decker led the band into a snarling rendition of "Speak in Tongues," Slider's country noir opener.

The band's intensity, its ability to tap into spooky Old Testament terror as well as pastoral Verde River amble, is what sets it apart from the ever-crowded indie folk populace. Plenty of young songwriters are content to sing about trains and "the good o'l days;" decker. explores darker (but no less traditional) folk themes: murder, damnation, and solitude.

It's a lyrical stance shared with Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and Neko Case far more than fashionable moppets like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, and the band's undercurrent of darkness assures that only the most adventurous Starbucks music supervisor would ever slide the band into rotation over the coffee grinders.

Which isn't to say that decker. isn't pretty, or that the combo doesn't get pop music. "Weight in Gold Pt. 1' showcased a polished balladeer side of Decker's composition, and on "Shadow Days," Cole and Decker traded terse R&B moans and skeletal blues durning the verses before breaking into a chorus that recalled classic '90s indie. It's sort of mashup of The Staples Singers with The Breeders (an iffy proposition, sure, but it works).

Bassist Vazquez is the band's secret weapon. With his own band, Vagabond Gods, he explores loud rock 'n' roll, and he brings guts to decker. as well. Locking in with Leibowitz, he gave the songs a rhythmic thrust, anchoring the ethereal melodies when needed and pushing the songs into aggressive territory when called to.

"We're all on the same page musically, and, personally, I've never been as close to proud on the other three [records] as I am on this one," Decker said when Troy Farah interviewed him for Up on the Sun. Speaking with Decker last night, he admitted that he was even closer to proud about Slider. He has every reason to be. The album feels like the work of a real music unit, and it captures the live dynamic showed off onstage at the Sail Inn last night. A lot of great bands played last night, but the evening belonged to decker., and Decker and co. stepped up to the plate like they knew it did.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: decker. (and also PALMS, Plastic Arts, Them Savages, Vagabond Gods, Fancy Cloud, Field Tripp, Dry River Yacht Club, The Tryst, Adam Faucett and The Tall Grass, Snake! Snake! Snakes!, Chimney Choir, Future Loves Past, and Zero Zero) at Sail Inn.

The Crowd: That lovable mix of Tempe hippies, hipsters, and hip-shakers.

Seriously: A lot of great bands. Dry River did its thing exceptionally well, and S!S!S! showed off a new garage-ier sound, which was pretty great.

See also:

-decker. Probably Isn't Going to Use Kickstarter Ever Again, Even Though It Helped Pay for the Band's Awesome New Album -Red Rocks Folk Band decker. Defines Itself with Slider

Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.