S. Carey and Califone Electrify Johnny Brenda’s

On Monday night, S. Carey and Califone performed at Johnny Brenda’s in Northern Liberties as part of their co-headlining tour which kicked off on September 4th in Pittsburgh with eight dates planned in total.  (They’ve both been on tour separately this month too, so be sure to check the rest of those dates here.)

S. Carey performs at Johnny Brendas

S. Carey performs at Johnny Brenda’s

Wisconsin-based S. Carey features Sean Carey on vocals, keyboard, and percussion, Nick Ball on guitar, Zach Hanson (not of MMMBop fame) on drums, Jeremy Boettcher on bass guitar, and Ben Lester on keyboard. They just recently visited Philadelphia this past spring in support of their sophomore release Range of Light, which was released on April 1st via label Jagjaguwar, and it’s always nice to see them again.  The album takes its title from the name that 19th century naturalist John Muir gave to the Sierra Nevada mountain range and is a definite change of pace from debut album All We Grow.  Overall, the album is reminiscent of Bon Iver, of course, but also Fleet Foxes and, at moments, My Morning Jacket.

Like a purple orchid breaking through the spring snow, S. Carey’s music is ethereal yet projects a growing warmth. It’s complex, driving, and intriguingly off-center. It’s the sort of sound to reach for when ready to turn out the lights but still too awake to fall asleep.  Sure, there is form, but it is not repetitive and there is plenty of ear candy to be had.  With a delicate but supported voice, Sean and his songs warmed the intimate space and small, buzzing crowd.  During the set, he mentioned that he feels really lucky to play with a band he looks up to (Califone) and mentioned David Bazan in the same sentence.

Among the songs included on the set list, they played “Avalanche” from their 2012 EP Hoyas, after which the group went into “Fire-scene” and then on to “Fleeting Light”, both from Range of Light.  At one point, Sean said that all he could think about was the smell of pulled pork wafting from the kitchen and also remarked: “We’re having a good tour so far.”


Califone performs at Johnny Brendas

Califone performs at Johnny Brenda’s

Chicago/LA-based Califone closed the evening and has been touring in support of their newest record, Stitches, which was released last year.  Califone has been a prolific band since their formation by Tim Rutili in 1997, after his previous band Red Red Meat disbanded. A variety of musicians have supported him over the years, but for the current tour Rutili will be joined by Joe Westerlund (Megafaun, Grandma Sparrow), Wally Boudway (Wooden Indian), and Ross Andrews (Wooden Indian). Their set kicked off with Tim performing a solo song so that he could try out a new custom guitar made from myrtle wood and featuring an oval-shaped tone hole. The designer, James Drury of Drury Guitars, was in attendance and it really sounded incredible.

Califone’s sound is hard to pin down, and no two albums ever sound the same yet the band seamlessly blends folk, blues, and modern noise elements into a genre all their own.  Interestingly, both guitarists from S. Carey and Califone used an EBow, which is a hand-held, battery-powered, electronic bow for guitar. An independent spirit, Rutili has commented on the band’s Facebook page that he’s, “…not too crazy about Spotify or most streaming audio outlets. I know that it is convenient and cheap and all the kids do it, but it totally devalues the music. […] I just wanted to say… Please buy music. Preferably vinyl.”

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know below in the comments!

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