Published Jul 27, 2015Before avant-garde guitar god Nels Cline had even played the first note on his Fender Jazzmaster, a young man could already be seen peering over the monitors from the side of the stage, studying the array of pedals before him intensely. But it's not like knowing the make and models of a few stomp boxes would help much; Cline is the kind of guitarist whose sounds can't be easily replicated, and it's hard to imagine any quartet sounding as distinct as the members that make up the Nels Cline Singers did on July 26 at Hillside.
Those who were lucky enough to witness their monster jam session with Elaquent and Daniel Lanois on the main stage the day before only saw the tip of the iceberg, as the New York City-based four-piece truly let loose on Sunday afternoon. The band may be named after Wilco's resident shredder, but it seemed like the experimental outfit was more of a vehicle to showcase each of its members' undeniable skills, rather than to let Cline shine in the spotlight.
Playing on the same stage right after Fred Penner, it's easy to imagine whatever kids remained were going to sign up for music lessons later that evening, as drummer Scott Amendola's thunderous and varied fills rang out alongside bassist Trevor Dunn's anchoring grooves and Cline's always alternating riffs. But the true star of the show was Brazilian-born percussionist Cyro Baptista, whose box of musical (and not-so musical) oddities had more pieces in it than Mr. Dressup's Tickle Trunk had costumes.
He seemingly used every single one inside, and although some worked better than others, his wilful experimentation made the whole thing seem somehow accessible, and made it an even better watch for the trained and untrained musicians in the audience in the process.