Bent Knee, the Boston-based six-piece art-rock band, released their critically acclaimed fourth album, Land Animal, last summer. Since the release, the band somehow managed to balance an extensive tour schedule with work on new music projects including collaborating on “Paper Earth,” a contemporary-classical song cycle with a percussion chamber ensemble. Rather than take a well-deserved break, Bent Knee have continued to work on new material and recently announced a US summer tour with post-hardcore rockers, Gatherers. We managed to catch the band a few shows in, on Monday, June 11th, at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room in Carrboro NC.
The evening was started by local indie band Zephyranthes. The Raleigh-based trio consisting of guitarist Elijah Melanson, singer and bassist Logan Maxwell, and drummer Michael Lamardo played a condensed set of psychedelic noise rock that mixed in elements of jazz and math-rock, played with a punk-like intensity. The performance was both complex and compelling, with hooks and melodies that kept the more experimental aspects tethered to an accessible base. Zephyranthes definitely turned a few heads in the room. With each new song, the attention and applause intensified. By the end of their set, the room was vigorously cheering.
The lead-in to Bent Knee fell to their tour-mates, melodic hardcore rockers Gatherers. Hailing from New Jersey, Gatherers delivered an epic moody and emotional performance that mixed modern hardcore with an approachable and melodic radiance. The stage was bathed in darkness with a few bright lights illuminating the background in a wash of white light that highlighted the band creating stark contrasts that enhanced the music. Lead Singer Rich Weinberger commanded attention with his powerful vocals that ranged from a harsh pained scream to a low wistful howl, while guitarists Rob Talalai and Anthony Gesa intertwined growling hooks, as bassist Matt Popowski and drummer Adam Cichocki drove the proceedings with a thundering low end. The dynamic performance kept the audience engaged and set a high mark for Bent Knee to follow.
Bent Knee formed in 2009 while the members attended the Berklee College of Music. They have spent the subsequent years defying categorization while building a reputation for captivating live shows that deliver wildly ambitious soundscapes with a loose fun playing style. As they took the stage at the Cradle, the anticipation in the room was unmistakable. Lead singer and keyboardist Courtney Swain, stationed just off center stage, delivered lush soaring vocals that hinted at influences ranging from Adele to Bjork, while also filling the role of maternal leader to the musical collective that filled the small stage. Guitarist Ben Levin was an extremely likeable foil when trading banter with Swain, and downright beguiling as he played with an almost shape-shifting versatility that roamed from serene and elegant to nimble and ferocious. Violinist Chris Baum provided a level of refinement and grace, while the rhythm section of bassist Jessica Kion and drummer Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth provided the power. Holding everything together fell to producer and sound designer Vince Welch who cut an unassuming figure tucked into a dark corner at the back of the stage.
The set combined alt-rock, jazz, orchestral pop, prog-rock, soul, and more with avant-garde and minimalist textures, creating unique and enthralling soundscapes. The songs were innovative, accessible, and ultimately highly entertaining. Bent Knee are one-of-a-kind, a unique breath of fresh air that deserve to be heard. Search out their albums and catch them live if you get the chance.
Bent Knee + Gatherers + Zephyranthes @ Cats Cradle Back Room – June 11th 2018