Show Review: Wye Oak/Callers/Alexis Stevens – The Mill – 4/4/2011

Photos by Adrianne Behning

Bittersweet?  Dewi Sant cancelled due to illness, so Alexis Stevens filled in.  Sweet.  Her voice is sexy, low, and textured like that of Sam Phillips or Jonatha Brooke, and she weaves it beautifully with her electric guitar. She plays rhythmically, using just a little reverb to mellow the sound. Whether about sad memories of California, or self-described silly songs “Crazy”, Alexis writes songs with emotion and perspective.

Brooklyn’s Callers dial in more reverb and play with free-form abandon.  They create music of complex rhythm and simply gorgeous vocals. Sara Lucas’ singing is nuanced and epic, Ryan Seaton’s guitar was driving and atmospheric, and drummer Don Godwin’s beats are crazy and tight.  For one song, Godwin strapped his floor tom to his chest and played both top and bottom skins in a fast, tricky rhythm. Callers’ music is precise and well-orchestrated, yet original, offbeat, and sad enough for it to be an appropriate soundtrack to a David Lynch film–and Sara even bears a passing resemblance to Isabella Rosselini.

Wye Oak closed the festival with authority, Jenn Wasner’s guitar blazing full of power.  Andy Stack plays keyboard fills and bass lines while playing drums with his right hand.  Their sound is large for a duo, and they pulled the crowd in with their careful fury. Don Godwin of the Callers contributed to a couple songs by playing a tenor horn, including a random yet wonderful cover of Danzig’s “Mother”. Closing their set with a loud and lovely version of the Kinks’ “Strangers” and a short encore, Wye Oak’s return to Iowa City was a perfect finish to the 2011 Mission Creek Festival.

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