Martha McCarey reports from the Beer Bar

Dry the River

A good few attendees lost themselves in the Union in an attempt to find the elusive beer bar, which Music is Love had repurposed as a venue for an evening of Folk music. Music is Love, originally a collaboration of the Art Society and Rollo Hornyold Strickland, started last year without official sponsors and filled student flat capacity to an unhealthy limit. The project now has received Union backing, and has already organised popular open mics and a sold out concert at the beginning of term.

The bar had been revamped and cordoned off to look surprisingly pleasant. Rory Butler opened with a set featuring himself, a semi-acoustic guitar and on occasion his sister Faith on backing vocals. Butler’s sound was polished and his presence somewhat winning; the songs themselves took the Josh Ritterish line, successfully if one appreciates that very sentimental niche of folk music, and abstracts the lyrics. The result nonetheless showed some potential for the young artist.

The main act, Dry the River, have recently self-released an EP, Bible Belt. Their Myspace excerpts gave the impression of a rather mellow, harmony prone folk act; not the type of thing you’d be led to expect by the bassist’s impressive beard and the vocalist’s tattoos.
The quintet on bass, electric and acoustic guitar, drums and violin, delivered an incredibly energetic set for a last night of touring – the bassist made a cursory mention of the night’s drive back down to London.

Most songs were taken from their forthcoming album. A particular highlight was “History Book” which started off with tingling guitar chords and some xylophone and then veered into a catchy chorus of “as heavy as a history book can be/I will carry it with me, oh Lord/ and maybe when the bitterness is gone/there’ll be sweetness on our tongues once more”. It’s just one of the biblical references with which their songs are littered reflecting the bucolic, biblical and semi-Victorian lyrical aesthetic that has lately become a trend.

“Family tree” followed the same pattern of mellow start to exuberant instrumentation, into a soaring electrified waltz. The songs atmosphere, like that of the whole concert, was warming and sonically rich. The evening left both audience and band thoroughly content.

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