Wooden Indian, Spafford, Dry River Yacht Club, Sugar Thieves at Crescent Ballroom, 1/13/12

Wooden Indian, Spafford, Dry River Yacht Club, Sugar Thieves Crescent Ballroom Friday, January 13

Ballrooms are traditionally designated for swanky soiree's and formal dance receptions. Since it's opening, Crescent Ballroom has played host to anything but traditional music ensembles and while it might be a tad shy of the opulence associated with venues of the same namesake, there's always a little dancing when the double doors sway open.

While no one was waltzing, there was still plenty of shimmy-shaking going on to last night's eclectic lineup of artists at the Crescent. Wooden Indian got the night started with their unique brand of dance party blues, Spafford shook it up with a funky jam session while the acoustic symphony known as Dry River Yacht Club charmed the night away.

(Local blues/americana band Sugar Thieves headlined the event, but unfortunately I had to leave during DRYC's set. Until next time, Sugar.)

Wooden Indian's opening set started promptly at 8 p.m. with a whimsical flair. Ross Andrews and Wally Boudway anchored the music as the two created lush layers of sound. Between thoughtful guitar picks and a steady pulsing rhythm, Thunder Choir members Patrick Rowland and David Moroney added various manipulated tones and touchy key accents.

As patrons continued to shuffle in, Boudway would grab their attention with twangy guitar strums and a soaring voice that reached intermittent falsetto highs. During "Heart of the Wilderbeast" he took over the drum set, stomping on the kick and high-hat pedals while Andrews pounded on the floor toms beside him.

It was cool seeing both Boudway and Andrews share percussion duty but it often led to longer than average breaks between songs. During that time only the steady buzz of the amplifiers could be heard and concertgoers struggled to keep their focus.

The 45-minute set provided a calmer pace than the band's counterparts, inciting soft shoulder sways for most of their tracks before really picking it up during the closer, "Harvest Eye." It would be a good segue into the next performers.

Visiting from Prescott, funk rock quartet Spafford picked up the pace behind some wicked bass work from Chris Fairless. Also clocking in just under an hour, the band only covered five songs while lead guitarist and vocalist Brian Moss spent less time singing, and more time just plain jamming.

The set featured some Jamiroquai-esque jazz funk as well as some reggae and ska-infused tracks. Drummer Nick Tkachyk mean-mugged his way through "Runaway" while Andrew Johnson summoned up some cool organ keys.

By the time they were done they had everyone bobbing their heads as the crowd kept up with their upbeat tunes and high energy. They even had a little fun throwing in a funked up version of the Inspector Gadget song.

Shortly after 10, the nine-piece ensemble of DRYC took the stage and got right to work. Singer Garnet, whom happened to be celebrating a birthday, was visibly in good spirits as she danced on stage to the bassoon and bass clarinet-laden songs.

It was my first time seeing the troupe of performers and although I bailed early, I'm looking forward to experiencing more of this vaudevillian dance party.

Critic's Notebook:

Last night: Wooden Indian, Spafford, Dry River Yacht Club, Sugar Thieves at Crescent Ballroom.

The crowd: Good mix of people not suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Overheard in the crowd: "I didn't expect that voice to come out of her." - During DRYC's sound check.

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Anthony Sandoval
Contact: Anthony Sandoval