Milo Greene toned down the art and brought the rock to The Linda Saturday night.
The five-piece, self-described “cinematic rock” band still brought plenty of the swirling atmospherics and ethereal beauty found on its self-titled debut album to the stage this night, playing for nearly an hour and a half to a packed and enthusiastic audience. But where the album is hushed and contemplative, this show was alive, sparking with energy and power, as all five members — multi-instrumentalists/singers Robbie Arnett, Marlana Sheetz, Graham Fink and Andrew Heringer, plus drummer Curtis Marrero — fed off of each others’ energy, at times playing to each other in an almost meditative circle.
The band ended up playing most of its album, turning these songs on their heads with extended jams and heroic harmonies. Opening number “Staging Points” immediately set the mood, with Arnett and Heringer creating swirling guitar lines around Marrero and Fink’s solid rhythm, while Sheetz hovered above everything with her keyboard playing. While Arnett was technically this song’s lead vocalist, nearly every song featured a dense weaving of everyone’s vocals, often shifting lead singers within the same song.
A short yet intense instrumental piece, “Wooden Antlers,” segued smoothly into “Don’t You Give Up on Me,” the first of many songs that let Marrero truly rip into his drum kit. He ended up being the glue that held the entire group together throughout most of the show, providing muscle to the four singers’ wandering playing and breathy vocals and anchoring everything to a solid backbeat.
To single any individual player out would be wrong, as the band is more than the sum of its parts. Taken alone, each of the band’s singers was fairly vanilla, but when combined in eerie four-part harmony — as on the haunting “What’s the Matter,” the slow build “Son My Son” and late-show stunner “Autumn Tree” — the lilting, drifting melodies truly shone through. The same went for instrumentation — nothing any member played was too flashy, instead coming together to create a teeming mass of sound.
The band was perhaps at its best on two cover songs. A version of Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” was another slow build, with Fink this time anchoring everything with his hyperactive guitar strum. Encore kick-off “A Shot in the Arm” stuck fairly close to the Wilco original, with all four voices again combining to tackle Jeff Tweedy’s ragged words and melodies.
Local singer-songwriter MaryLeigh Roohan, of MaryLeigh and the Fauves and Babe City, opened up with a short solo set that especially showcased her powerful vocals. Although she’s known for the previously mentioned bands, seeing her on her own, with just her own electric guitar playing for accompaniment, might be the best way to go about it. Here, her smoky, sultry voice became the star as she crooned out her original songs of heartbreak and longing, while the audience enthusiastically cheered along. Best was set closer “Foolish Girl,” which slowly built in intensity until the song’s final, belted-out chorus.