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Monday, January 9, 2012

Live: Crooked Fingers' folk heaviness

Posted by on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 3:39 PM

Crooked Fingers Eric Bachmann, crooning hard

Crooked Fingers, Mount Moriah
Friday, Jan. 6
Kings, Raleigh

Technically, Crooked Fingers Friday night stop at Raleigh’s Kings was not a hometown show. It has been 15 years since leader Eric Bachmann left Chapel Hill and 14 since Archers of Loaf, the now-legendary indie rock outfit he leads once more, ended their initial run. In that time Bachmann has landed in D.C., Seattle, Atlanta, Denver and Taiwan. For the last year, he has resided in Athens, Ga. Still, even if Crooked Fingers don't belong to the Triangle, the rapt crowd at this weekend's show embraced the band like a homegrown treasure.

Crooked Fingers feed on the same barely contained intensity that makes the Archers such an incredible force; in both cases, it springs from Bachmann's mighty presence. By necessity, the Fingers have survived on rotating line-ups, but you wouldn’t know it by the tight, professional ensemble that showed up Friday. They moved easily from post-rock inflected piano ballads and acoustic-led confessionals and to sophisticated art rock with wowing efficiency, laying down a backdrop for Bachmann to leave his mark.

His songs were restrained, but he was not. He attacked his electric guitar during the breaks on tender odes, adding a tasteful but powerful layer of grit. He laid into the mic in tense assaults, instilling tender croons with the vigor of punk-rock shouts. His songs are shaped in the patient vein of acts such as The National and Richard Buckner, but live, Bachmann approaches them with the same unhinged gravitas that defined the Archers. The crowd at Kings seemed acutely aware of this, headbanging to clanging piano chimes.

Bachmann and his band were at their best in the encore. “She Toes the Line,” perhaps the best song on 2011’s LP Breaks in the Armor, became a cataclysmic march with Bachmann shouting his defiant proclamations to the rafters. Best of all was the tender rendition of “Chumming the Ocean” that ended the night. The fearful ode drifted forth on the bittersweet waltz of Bachmann's piano, graced by the brittle but beautiful croon of guitarist Liz Durrett.

Mount Moriah was typically sublime in the opening slot, testing out an adjusted line-up that will accompany them on a month-long U.S. tour. They ripped through an impassioned set that matched Crooked Fingers intensity. Jenks Miller's guitar lines wove their way through the band's lush folk-rock, as Heather McEntire exercised her razor sharp pipes with devastating results.

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