I first encountered the music of The Low Anthem in Providence a few years back, when the hauntingly sweet melody of “Charlie Darwin” was brought to my attention and subsequently played on repeat in our office for several weeks in a row. I far from minded, for the satisfying, classically infused, ever-so-smart songs of this talented young band have that unique ability to seep into your mind and feel very much at home.
I suspect that many listeners who were not familiar with The Low Anthem in its earliest years are now discovering them thanks to “Lover Is Childlike,” their on-point contribution to the T. Bone Burnett produced soundtrack for The Hunger Games, and are no doubt yearning to know more. What better way than to soak in their set at the Summer Arts Weekend?
The Low Anthem’s sound is at once folky, ethereal, harmonious, and complex – the product of impressively proficient musicians who play an astonishing amalgam of unconventional instruments with both facility and grace. I wondered if there was anything they hadn’t yet tried, and was informed by band member Ben Knox Miller that they would love to find a way to experiment with bagpipes, “mini Indian fiddles,” and a “Kenny G sax.” Then, to sum up their out-of-the-ordinary instrument proclivities, he shared, “basically anything that makes dogs run for the brush turns us on.”
I also wondered which bands this quirky ensemble might be listening to at the moment. The answer? “Weezer, Pink Floyd, Maia, Mountain Man, Beefheart, God Speed You Black Emperor”…as eclectic an assortment as the instruments that find their way into The Low Anthem’s melodies.
Their albums usually are recorded in fascinating places (a house on Block Island, for example, or a former pasta sauce factory in Providence). The natural, site-specific sonic elements of the locations become intimate components of those recordings, which not only document the music made at the time, but also the temporary community that comes together during the course of creating the album.
It is for this reason that I am most excited to hear them perform live in Boston on Saturday, July 28th as part of the Summer Arts Weekend lineup. I can’t wait to see how the sounds of the city, the energy, and the excitement sure to be reverberating through everyone in attendance in Copley Square that afternoon, will echo and help shape the music performed on stage.