Call it musical archaeology: Seattle's alt-folk missing link made a rare appearance Friday night as a (mostly) reunited Carissa's Wierd played their first show in seven years to an adoring Showbox crowd.
In the late '90s, Carissa's Wierd was one of the bands that bridged Seattle's grunge past to its eclectic future (alongside Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie). After six years of underground acclaim, several members went on to more famous projects, including Band of Horses and Grand Archives. On this sultry summer night, their 90-minute set was, as bandleader Mat Brooke predicted during an interview earlier in the week, part "museum piece [part] fucked-up high school reunion."
Brooke and Jenn Ghetto shared lead vocal and guitar duties, backed by drummer Sera Cahoone, bassist Robin Perringer, violinist Sarah Standard, and accordionist Jeff Hellis. Those last two instruments, along with Brooke and Ghetto's whisper-soft, 4-A.M. vocals, set the show's intimate, understated tone. The audience -- mostly longtime fans with a deep personal connection to the band -- swayed along reverently.
CW's influence on the alt-folk scene was evident from the first notes of opener "Low Budget Slow Motion Soundtrack Song from the Leaving Scene." Mournful, barely-there waltzes like "One Night Stand" and "Phantom Fireworks" are the template by which the bearded hush of Sub Pop stars Fleet Foxes and Iron and Wine is drawn.
Less obvious was the connection between CW and Band of Horses, the band Brooke and Ben Bridwell formed in the wake of CW's dissolution. Bridwell, who played percussion with Carissa's Wierd, was noticeably absent without explanation.
One anomaly: When Ghetto took center stage on "So You Want to Be a Superhero," the song's midnight minimalist groove sounded something like a countrified version of the xx. "That's not how that was supposed to go," Ghetto joked.
"Blue Champagne Glass" and "Blankets Stare" had a dreamy, restless ambiance. But the music hit hardest when the band played with dynamics: "September Please Take this Heart Away" built several partial crescendos before finishing on one of the night's most upbeat climaxes.
In the days leading up to the show, Brooke made it clear that he wasn't relaunching Carissa's Wierd, and that this would be their solitary reunion show, strictly for the Seattle faithful. He brought the band out for a three-song encore, then left the stage quickly, equally grateful and eager to move on.
1. Low Budget Slow Motion Soundtrack Song from the Leaving Scene
3. One Night Stand
4. Brooke Daniels' Tiny Broken Fingers
5. September Come Take This Heart Away
7. Phantom Fireworks
8. All Apologies and Smiles, Yours Truly, Ugly Valentine
9. So You Wanna Be a Superhero
10. Blankets Stare
11. Sympathy Bush
12. Blue Champagne Glass
13. Drunk With the Only Saints I Know
14. Alphabet on the Manhole
15. You Should Be Hated Here
16. They'll Only Miss You When You Leave
17. New Song
18. Heather Rhodes
19. Blessed Arms That Held You Tight Freezing Cold and Alone
20. Ignorant Piece of Shit