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  • Live Review: Okkervil River / Sea Wolf – The Music Box @ Fonda, Los Angeles, CA

    Thu, 25 Sep 2008 12:26:45

    Live Review: Okkervil River / Sea Wolf – The Music Box @ Fonda, Los Angeles, CA - One if by River, two if by Sea Wolf

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    September 23, 2008

    Austin’s Okkervil River have been around for about a decade now, but in the past four years, their star has really begun to ascend, thanks to three deservedly acclaimed albums and diligent touring. During those recent tours, the venues have been getting bigger and bigger—from the cozy Echo to the famed Troubadour to, here in 2008, a packed but not quite sold-out Music Box (capacity: 1300).

    The crowd came early to enjoy a compelling set from L.A.’s very own Sea Wolf, led by former Irving co-founder Alex Brown Church. While their moody indie-pop has been pleasant but a bit forgettable on record so far, the live set revealed better range and emphasized some of the understated orchestral flourishes that thicken the atmosphere. They sound like a Silverlake band through and through, bearing echoes of compatriots like Earlimart and Silversun Pickups (at their most restrained). Seeing them live whets the appetite for their second record, which could be a real breakthrough.

    Okkervil River offers more of an emotional roller coaster, as frontman Will Sheff is well-versed in jubilant rockers as well as heartrending confessionals and character studies. Even though it’s newly released, material from The Stand-Ins was greeted enthusiastically, particularly their propulsive lead single “Lost Coastlines” (which was part of a perfect quartet of songs to end the band’s pre-encore set). With higher expectations and greater responsibilities, Okkervil seems a little more professional and a little less livewire these days, but Sheff doesn’t hesitate for a second to ratchet up the intensity during Okkervil’s many grand crescendos.

    The career arc has not been lost on Sheff, who paused for a moment to recall once coming to the Music Box as an opener. This time, he was afforded the adoration of a headliner—seldom more apparent than when he played a mostly solo and incredibly intimate version of Black Sheep Boy’s aching ballad “A Stone”—the crowd just shut up and let it sink in. When he badgered the signature L.A. arm-crossers about their arm-crossing, a bunch of them even raised their hands and joined in an audience clap-along. An overgrown frat boy in a backwards Dodgers cap made Fred Durst points and fist pumps while singing every word. When Sheff doffed his jacket and loosened his skinny tie, a coterie of lovestruck hipsters near the stage giggled and whispered dirty things for the duration of the next song. Yes, this once-little, always-literate indie band is reaching the masses. Mr. Sheff, your moment is upon you—may you fare better than the characters in your songs.

    —Adam McKibbin

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