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The Lone Bellow, Twin Forks prove cathartic in the wake of tragedy

Brighton Music Hall, Boston, April 20, 2013

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Usually when the opening act(s) strut its stuff, the crowd isn't particularly thick, loud or emphatically showing its response. That's the stuff that would be reserved for a headliner - in this case Ivan and Alyosha of Seattle.

But in the case of this evening's open acts - Twin Forks and The Lone Bellow - each ought to obtain a headlining spot next time around based on their outings on this sold-out night.

The show was doubtlessly different than any of the bands had ever experienced before because this was the first night Boston reopened following the Boston-area lock down on Friday in the search for the Boston Marathon bombers.

In some ways, perhaps, the show proved cathartic for the crowd, a chance to try and enjoy themselves once again in the wake of profound tragedy. Both Twin Forks and The Lone Bellow made note of the week's traumatic events.

But it wasn't necessarily their words of support that made the night, although they were most welcome. Instead, it was the quality of the sets.

If Twin Forks isn't well known at all, maybe their lead singer is - Chris Carraba is. And if that name doesn't totally ring a bell, his main band ought to - Dashboard Confessional.

But this was no night of emo for which Dashboard was known. Instead, Carraba, who retains a friendly demeanor, opted for a rootsy sound with this outfit. Carraba played acoustic guitar for most of the night and was accompanied by Suzie Zeldin on mandolin to give the band its rootsy sound. Bassist (and producer) Jonathan Clark and guest drummer Mike Poorman (he's usually with Hot Rod Circuit) rounded out the group.

While Zeldin ably helped Carraba out on backing vocals and harmonies, the focal point was most definitely on Carraba. His vocals were mixed high, and Carraba's strong voice could always be heard during the fast-paced, half-hour set.

Twin Forks turned in a solid cover of Talking Heads' And She Was, giving it a country flair with the prominent mandolin.

Zeldin wasn't shy to display her skills time and again, including Kiss Me Darling and the closing song Back to You.

About the only misstep was when Carraba needed help with the words to get a song started. Not great, but that was in sharp contrast with the rest of the music.

The Lone Bellow quickly followed with an engaging, heart-felt, emotional set that yet again easily demonstrated that the acclaim given this Brooklyn-based trio (check out a New York Times story from January) was most definitely warranted.

The Lone Bellow maintain an Avetts style approach to the music - not quite as raucous or seemingly out of control - but the energy level is about on par on music that is country, rootsy and Appalachian based.

There was hardly any let up on the emotion and intensity doled out by lead singer and acoustic guitarist Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin on vocals and mandolin and Brian Elmquist on guitar and vocals, starting with You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional and ending with Teach Me to Know.

In between, The Lone Bellow covered a chunk of songs from its excellent self-titled debut, which came out in January.

They stretched out a few songs, particularly the catchy, uptempo Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold, which found the crowd singing along in a song that came off as ultra triumphant.

The Lone Bellow slowed it down on You Don't Love Me Like You Used To, with a bluegrass feel, being acoustic-based with Pipkin singing along with Williams.

Williams is an emotive sort, who puts out vocally. No wonder, he was covered in sweat afterward, but that alone did not render him worthy. Instead it was his real deal delivery that paid off in spades. At times, Williams came off like a band conductor by directing the crowd, which didn't take all that much to join in on the songs. Not surprisingly, in his old job, he was the music director at a Brooklyn church.

Elmquist took lead on the low key, religion-themed Watch Over Us, which seemed fitting given the week that was.

The Lone Bellow received euphoric applause at the end of its 50-minute stint. No encore would allow on this evening unfortunately, although extremely well deserved. One would suspect that The Lone Bellow will have even more friends next time out. An excellent performance can do that for you.

But more importantly, The Lone Bellow and Twin Forks gave a much needed boost to a city in mourning.