When Sea Wolf's Alex Brown Church called last night's audience at the Rhythm Room "rambunctious," I justhad
to call bullshit.
"Rambunctious?" In what world? And don't give me the sarcasm thing; he's too earnest. Church was basically singing acoustic lullabies to the crowd all night, so there really wasn't anything to be rambunctious about. Don't get me wrong, I like Sea Wolf quite a bit, but without a band to give Church's songs a fuller sound, it kind of seemed like some guy playing guitar at the tail end of a really low-key house party.
Last night was the second show in a solo, acoustic national tour (though he did cheat and play the electric guitar for a few songs), and it was pretty obvious that Church wasn't yet used to being back on the road. There were noticeable gaffes -- some even he commented on -- with his strumming, finding the right key, and remembering the lyrics, which will likely be worked out during the 29 shows that remain on this tour. Last night they came off slightly amateurish, though not entirely unlikeable, and actually added to the intimacy of the performance.
The audience was what you'd expect for a show of this nature (singer-songwriter fare) with lots of earthy-looking girls wearing vintage clothing, Tina Fey glasses, and messy braids in their long hair. The guys fell into two categories: uber-sensitive or there with their girlfriends. The latter could be seen kissing their ladies tenderly and telling them, "this song totally says how I feel about you," the former were the kinds of guys who would utter the phrase "make love" and mean it.
This is not the cast of characters needed for a raucous party of a rock show. And given the instrumentation on Sea Wolf's albums, I hadn't realized how incredibly mellow his songs really were, so the one-man-on-stage effect was basically the musical equivalent of drinking Sleepytime tea.
Nonetheless, the iPhones were ablaze, snapping photos and taking video of the Silver Lake-based singer as he played earnestly. You could almost hear the swoons from the giggly girls in the audience, because, let's face it, he is pretty dreamy with his messy hair and relaxed hipster style (plaid shirt over a deep V-neck tee) coupled with his tormented lyrics. Surprisingly, the audience was completely silent during the set -- no chatting, no singing along, just a few die-hards mouthing along with the lyrics -- except when erupting into applause at the end of each song.
If you've listened to Sea Wolf's albums, you know that Church isn't exactly reinventing the musical wheel, and it's hard to tell the difference between some of his songs because they generally sound extremely similar, both lyrically and sonically. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, since there are many artists whose albums all follow the same basic structure but are still extremely popular (M. Ward and Andrew Bird would definitely fall into this category, as well). Perhaps the most obvious theme in all of Sea Wolf's music is the nature imagery, particularly where water is concerned. In his 15-song set, there were a whopping 58 mentions of water in its various states of being, including but not limited to rain, ice, rivers, snow, streams, waterfalls, oceans, mist, floods, and drowning.
That shakes out to 3.87 references per song.
Thanks, Sea Wolf, now I'm sleepy and thirsty.
Last Night: Sea Wolf at the Rhythm Room.
Personal Bias: White Water, White Bloom is one of my favorite albums at the moment, and I was really excited to see this show because the last time I went to see him play was at The Modified, which sold out, so my friends and I stood outside in the cold to listen. The show sounded great and had much more energy, so I was looking forward to seeing that energy at this show.
The Crowd: Already mentioned.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Overheard in the crowd: Almost nothing, except what was yelled to Church. For example, guy yelling "Play Song for the Dead!" Girl responding to him (also yelling) "Ooh, I love that song!"
Random Notebook Dump: Lyric to "I Made a Resolution" was about resolving never to sing another sad song again. I call bullshit again.
The Rose Captain
Black Leaf Falls
Dew in the Grass
I Made a Resolution
The Garden That You Planted
Orion and Dog
Middle Distance Runner
Turn the Dirt Over
Leaves in the River
You're a Wolf