Published Apr 20, 2013Partway through Seattle duo Impossible Bird's opening set of countrified acoustic surf-rock, someone mentioned that the two on stage had a sound reminiscent of Dave Matthews. From that moment on vocalist/guitar player Nick Drummond's affinity for the affectations of one David J. Matthews was all too apparent. So prevalent were the character tics, from the vocal inflections and guitar style to even the hand movement, that I was drawn away from an otherwise enjoyable set. When violinist Tyler Carson got to take center stage on two instrumental tracks, the duo really soared.
As Fish & Bird took the stage the crowd began to well up a bit — as much as can be expected for an early bluegrass show on a Friday night. With a fiddle, banjo, upright bass and some drums on stage it looked like another standard bluegrass show, but as guitarist Ryan Boeur picked up an electric guitar it was evident that something was going to be different. The all-too-brief set combined some old catalogue highlights like the swampy dirge "Mark My Grave" and the energetically dusty "Well Run Dry" with songs from their upcoming album, soon to be recorded on Mayne Island. It was these new songs that stood out the most. "I've been developing a chemical addiction/To the spicy truth, the smell of you," lead singer Taylor Ashton crooned at the beginning of the slinky bluegrass love song "Plot." It's a beautiful piece of songwriting that showcases the group's strengths, most notably the nimble fiddle playing of Adam Iredale-Gray. "Something in the Ether," another song from the forthcoming album, was the highlight of the group's set. A properly heavenly sound, full of contemplative joy, lifted the song up onto the clouds and turned it into something truly beautiful. I can't wait to hear how it translates into the studio setting. Bluegrass is a genre held to high tradition and it takes a crafty group of people to take it somewhere new while still holding that tradition in the regard it deserves. With five members on the same page, all allowing each other to breathe, speak and be heard with their instruments, Fish & Bird proved themselves a unique force in the Canadian alt-country landscape.