Some bands can’t catch a break.
Last week I saw The Low Anthem at Mississippi Studios in Portland, a small (smaller than intimate, in truth) venue. Just as well, as there were about 20 people in the room.
How could this be? Surely some mistake with the booking or the promotion? Were The Decemberists are playing an impromptu set in the bar next door?
Nope. Just the vagaries of popularity and music and trends and time. The one unimpeachable thing was the night’s music: a full rendition of the band’s latest release (a concept album about a salt doll immersing herself in the sea), followed by some older songs. It was a sublime, if unnecessarily low-lit (see above), evening.
Leaving the venue I cast my mind back a decade or so, to a time when The Low Anthem were being heralded as the new Fleet Foxes of sorts, and tickets to their Dublin shows were hard to get.
Somewhere along the way something changed – not least the band itself, whose members turned away from the ‘new folk’ (or whatever) label to indulge their own, more niche, interests (including building their own studio in a restored vaudeville-era theater).
Nonetheless, one assumes that when artists reach a certain plateau – of recognition at least, if not success – they remain there, maybe not ascending to the next level but, at the very least, not slipping down the hill.
Why care about this? Because The Low Anthem makes music that deserves to be heard, that may at times require immersion and focus but may also – when it comes to beautiful song like “Gondwanaland” – be the most sublime thing you’ll hear today.