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Woods Take It to the Next Level

July 29th, 2013

Woods – The Bowery Ballroom – July 27, 2013


“Get ready for the harmonica,” said a friend when I told him I’d be seeing Woods at The Bowery Ballroom on Saturday. But bassist Kevin Morby brought out his mounted harmonica only once, as if in a nod to the Newport Folk Fest happening at the same time a few hundred miles away, for the sun-dappled sway of the set opener, “Pushing Onlys.” The rest of the time, the Brooklyn-based psychedelic folkies hypnotized the comfortably packed room with heavy drones and raga freak-outs, the swirling visuals of inkblots and kaleidoscopic geometry behind the stage casting a candy-colored shadow over them.

On record, Woods allow their skillful manipulation of guitar textures and tones to dominate. As with many bands, more often than not the rhythmic section is more of a means to an end than the centerpiece. Live, however, Morby and drummer Aaron Neveu led the proceedings with a relentless thumping and pounding that took the songs off Bend Beyond to the next level. The title track, “Size Meets the Sound” and “Find Them Empty,” in particular, spiraled into trance-inducing jam sessions with enough different noodlings to keep them interesting without losing the propulsive power of the bass and drums. That’s not to say the guitarists colored within the lines: On “Is It Honest?” Jarvis Taveniere thrashed out so hard during a solo that he knocked over his microphone stand, sending it spinning into the audience.

But all good things must come to an end, and after about an hour, Woods finished their set. They came back on after a mercifully brief interlude for a two-song encore, starting with the wistful acoustic number “It Ain’t Easy.” For the final song, they pulled on Real Estate bassist Alex Bleeker, whose band Alex Bleeker and the Freaks served as one of the openers. After some instrumental switches, Bleeker and Woods launched into a fairly faithful cover of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” with the audience joyfully singing along. —Harley Oliver Brown

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com