Americanafest may be a few weeks behind us at this point, but it would be hasty to say that the NPR listener’s dream festival’s conclusion would preclude any other folk/Americana show coming through town from surpassing the bevy of bang-up showcases from the festival. So hasty, in fact, that it might predispose one to assume no other folk acts worth their weight in jongleur gold would even bother routing their tours through Nashville post-fest. But such a hypothetical scenario is silly to indulge for too long, and a questionable lede to boot.
Nevertheless, despite Americanafest having come and gone, the year 2016 most certainly experienced its best folk show in Nashville, as the quick witted minstrels better known as Darlingside made their way down to the High Watt this past Thursday evening, to kick off a 25-stop tour of balladeering and banter. Receiving support from a more than formidable opening act, Frances Luke Accord (of whom it would be within one’s best interest to take an equally concerted listen to), Darlingside rolled through town in support of their new EP, Whippoorwill – a title of which they stressed the term “EP” was not a part of the title – along with their stellar 2015 long play, Birds Say.
Despite performing on a busy evening of live sets from Kings of Leon and Ben Solee alongside their own, Darlingside put forth what was likely the most winsome and wry set of the night (though that can’t be set in stone, as perhaps the Followills have finally developed some semblance of levity, but I digress). Opening the set with “My Gal, My Guy,” the first thing anyone in attendance is bound to be enraptured by are the ethereal harmonies of Darlingside. Its remarkable to consider the fact that such meticulous melody can be attained through the use of a single condenser mic, but nevertheless, Darlingside managed to do just that. Granted, charming harmonies and bard-like lyrics can be expected from any old folk band, but with Darlingside, their delicate musicality serves as a red herring when it comes to their top-of-the-line stage banter, of which they are unparalleled.
Following “My Gal, My Guy,” cellist/guitar picker Harris Paseltiner took a moment to express his great adulation to the city of Nashville, or as he described it – “The land of milk and honey,” – and went on to regale the more than enthusiastic crowd with a tale of heart break – “the last time we played here, all of our stuff had been stolen in Memphis the day before” – alongside some musings about the interior design of the Cannery compound – “I’m a fan of this industrial chic thing, the hanging Edison bulbs; we don’t have anything like this in Boston.” – and finally describing their previous few days in town, calling out Dino’s specifically, in which the crowd willfully gave Harris a cartographic lesson in Nashville’s civic divide.
The evening was ripe with rapier wit and clever quips galore, melded masterfully with the primary reason for convening – Darlingside’s music. “With Frances Luke Accord being from Chicago, we thought it’d be a great idea to play a song that says “Chicago” over and over again,” prefaced banjo man Don Mitchell as the band jumped into “White Horses.” At any given moment throughout the set, Darlingside had their audience wrapped around their finger to either the point of stitches or to tears. There were propositions of gentlemen’s games – “Count how many kick drum kicks it takes until our CD falls over – lessons in regional foliage – “We learned of a new fruit today. We Googled “fruit that looks like a tennis ball,” and now we know what an Osage orange is.” – alongside harrowing renditions of “Whippoorwill” and “Blow the House Down,” with additional help from Frances Luke Accord filling in the tiniest spaces once left unoccupied.
The evening as a whole was a bounty of hilarious anecdotal tales and sardonic sallying, the single most riotous moment of the show came when mandolinist/lyrist/violinist Auyon Mukhraji took a moment to “band-splain” every member’s role in the band, outside of their musical roles. There was bassist Dave Senft, who prefers to buy expensive toothpaste, Don, who knows the most intimate of intricacies of comic book story lines, Harris, who has an issue with pickles and mayonnaise, and of course, Auyon, who described himself as a “beacon of Indian culture, who is so grateful to shine down on all of you.” Then, in an instant the band dove right back into their captivating set with “Go Back,” only continuing the enthralling dichotomy that is their equally enrapturing and uproarious live set.
Darlingside’s tour has only just begun, and with their Whippoorwill EP (“EP” not part of title) having just released today (October 7th), it would be well within the reader’s interest to go far out of their to catch the quipping quartet of folk maestros out on tour, as its well worth any venture out to a club, room, or venue.