Some of the best folk-rock Washington, D.C. had to offer was on display Saturday night at the Black Cat. Orchard Wall and The North Country all came out to play in celebration of the release of The Riverbreaks new album, Wildfire.
Orchard Wall started the show with their enjoyable five-piece folk. Their songs were elegant, yet their performance was still energetic. Though Orchard Wall’s self-titled debut EP came out last August, many in the audience had never heard the group’s music before. I talked to several people who were discovering Orchard Wall for the first time and loved what they heard.
The North Country infused their indie-folk with a touch of garage-rock, as a bit of avante-guard flourished from their string section. Their set was a smattering of cuts from their newest release, You Can Never Go Home Again, and a few rarities. They brought ragged earnesty to songs like “Fire” and “It’s Done,” and gracefully delivered quieter moments like “Amuse Me” and “Leave It Alone.” The treat of their set was the closing trio consisting of a cover of Radiohead’s “Optimistic,” and TNC’s “Wiser,” and “You Were Never There.” Eschewing the broad brushstrokes of guitar that characterize Radiohead’s deep cut from Kid A, Andrew Grossman chose instead to fingerpick the chords – giving “Optimistic” a more intimate feel than the original. “You Were Never There” began as a dark, muted ballad a la “Eleanor Rigby,” but exploded at the end with a full-band freak-out and a coda of atonal string arrangements underneath Grossman randomly quoting from the Talking Heads catalog.
The Riverbreaks brought things back down to earth with more traditional fare, delivering a solid set that combined gospel, country-western, and ‘70s AM radio gold. They performed songs such as “Corn Blue Night,” “Waiting for the Rapture,” and “American Sun” with fervor. Jesse Prentice-Dunn’s guitar work was impeccable – each one of his licks was tasty and perfectly tailored to each tune. The Riverbreaks treated fans to new songs from Wildfire, but also gave the audience two nuggets: a great cover of La Roux’s “Bulletproof” that reimagined the neo-new wave hit as a Nashville country-roots anthem, and an older cut, “Don’t Kiss & Tell,” played as the encore.
Photos by John-Paul Zajackowski