Woods – The Bowery Ballroom – May 16, 2014
In recent years, Woods have gone from just a band to the gravitational center of a small musical universe. Other bands sounding like Woods is a thing. And artists having their albums released on Woods’ label or produced by that guy from Woods are things other bands rightly aspire to. Take Quilt—the opening act at The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night—a far-orbiting body, but orbiting nonetheless with its cross section of weird-folk songs and free-floating jams. Performing live, the emphasis was on the latter, with several Grateful Dead–of-the-’60s excursions, democratically elected brain fodder that were long but not too long. Showing off a real tour-tested cohesion, Quilt were in good form, relying heavily on material from their recent Held Up in Splendor album. The final movement of the set was either multiple songs seamlessly stitched together or a far-reaching opus with twists and surprises, trippy spirals, groovy jogs and hairpin turns.
As enjoyable as Quilt were, the sold-out crowd wanted the source, and it was good to see Woods in their element. Drippy Eye Projections provided the show’s visuals with old school liquid light displays bubbling behind the band. The projections had the effect like Woods were playing in some petri dish, part of a Technicolor ooze on the hinge between chemistry and biology. The music shared in the metaphor, natural, organic folk-based songsmith-ing meeting explosive, entropy-building jam outs. For the most part, the show was a live imagining of the excellent new With Light and With Love album. Each song was recognizably Woods at its core, but small variations on the basic theme and evolution in the sound make large changes. The title track was a representative highlight, Jeremy Earl’s unique falsetto vocals setting the mood and then releasing the tension as the band escalated into an ecstatic improv.
Little spacey ambient noodling filled the spaces between numbers: the primordial ooze from which the songs bubbled through, the medium of the goo as important as the shapes and colors moving through it, superlative songs like “Moving to the Left” as enthralling as the jams they set adrift. At one point, Woods introduced their new bassist, Chuck, for whom the packed crowd enthusiastically boogied down and/or attempted to keep their minds from leaving terra firma altogether as the scrambled rainbow colors cascaded over the stage. The encore featured a dedication to their “Vermont friends” (and fellow orbiteers) MV & EE and an excellent cover of Pink Floyd’s “Green Is the Colour,” Jarvis Taveniere playing an earthly 12-string, Woods making it beautifully their own. It was the end of one of those shows that felt, in its glorious reverie, like it might not ever end at all. But, alas, we were finally released from the Woods orbit, but hopefully not for too long. —A. Stein