Feature /// Hanging with Ivan And Alyosha at Exit/In

imagesI spend too much time listening to The Bootleg Series Vol. 5, featuring Bob Dylan with a face painted white and eyes bold and blue, and a voice that is sweet and piercing, a honeysuckle version of the grittier rasp we associate with him.

So it should come as no surprise that when watching Tim Wilson sing Monday night at the Exit/In, I notice that at the end of “Folds,” his shadowy and pure timber reaches a note I’ve only ever heard before on The Rolling Thunder Revue’s version of  “One More Cup Of Coffee.” Anyone who can immediately and unintentionally dig up a particular moment of Dylan’s many-changing faces is, in my book, an artist to be watched.

During a pre-show interview, I bonded with Ivan and Alyosha over the finer points of life in Seattle and Nashville, (the band has a true affinity for the charm of the south, and I have a true affinity for the charm of rain); they consider Nashville to be a second home of sorts, and possess a deep respect for the musical talent that seems to flow, effortlessly and collaboratively, from our city. I allowed them to counsel me through these younger years of cultivating artistry, and had the chance to talk Russian literature in front of a slew of PBRs. The group notes that their music works to ask those spiritual and philosophical questions that we encounter in everyday life, and to address them, if not answer them, from the perspective that most things tend to run a natural course, working themselves out in a positive manner. The members of the group are refreshingly grounded individuals, and I suddenly view this as a green-room life-coaching session. After relentless questioning of the band’s spirited craftsmanship and optimistic perspectives, the band takes stage to a sold-out show.

Ivan and Alyosha’s on-stage charisma amplifies their grounded and upbeat personalities; their sound is tight and on point, ricocheting a wave of uplifting spirit across the venue, and somehow managing to land right into my Jack and Coke, the infamous elixir of mood-exaggeration. Somehow, with their fast-paced and major-key set list, they find a way to be one of the few bands that turns a usual depressant into a soaring high, coaxing me in that “it’s going to be okay, even if things momentarily suck, everything works out for the best” mentality. This is a rare state for me to achieve so easily, all due to the masterfully crafted sounds of an ebullient victory in the struggles of reality’s malaise.

“I’d much rather listen to a happy tune than a sorrowful one,” they remark during our interview, in response to my observation that most of their music bubbles safely on the latter side of bittersweet. It takes both an emotional maturity and a musical adeptness to create such a cohesive, glass-half-full sound; Ivan and Alyosha have found a way to meld both an intellectual and spiritual intelligence into songs that shed optimism on life’s more earnest issues. Often, music seems to reflect location; bands paint their surroundings in a landscape of corresponding sounds. Ivan and Alyosha have the unique ability to step outside of that, though they’re Seattle natives, (which immediately makes them my friends, in my own distorted viewpoint that everyone from Seattle wants to be friends with me), All The Times We Had exists in a universal and relatable realm.

Monday night’s renditions of “Running for Cover” and “Easy to Love” underscore the new album’s skillful transition to live performances; between both a distinctive group chemistry, and extensive touring with the likes of Brandi Carlile and Aimee Mann, Ivan and Alyosha’s sound translates easily from the studio the stage. Appropriately placed crescendos slide into the songs’ more expressive moments, while subtle moments dip down into the underlying harmony, creating that implicit tension necessary to evoke such raw emotional response.

Watching the band live is akin to descending into a clear and deep meditation. Soft lyrics combined with cyclical melodies tell stories of life’s more honest questions, with a wiser and more optimistic perspective than the norm; momentarily, my anxieties dwindle, and my hyperactive though processes erase. Tim Wilson sings in “The Folds,” that “the only way to see it, is to believe that it is there.” Ivan and Alyosha’s performance stands out as an illuminated lighthouse, helping us to trace through murky waters with eyes pointed upward, determined to swim toward a sweet destination previously unreached.

Catch them back in Nashville on November 10

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