Low: Big in S.F. and in ... Poland?
The long-running slowcore trio Low -- which has a great reputation for live performances -- played Great American Music Hall last night. It was a beautiful 90-minute set, with all the best songs from the band's latest album C'mon (see below), and a bunch of back-catalog tunes that our friend (who knows this band far better than us) said they don't play too often ("Sunflower," specifically got a big response.) Fellow slowcore artist and S.F. denizen Mark Kozelek was on hand to play guitar for the opening song and "Lazy," which began the band's encore.
The sound was incredible, as it more or less has to be for a band whose songs are built on huge loud/quiet dynamics, the intricately intertwined melodies and subtle harmonies of two voices, an electric guitar, some keyboards, and an abbreviated drum kit. As relative newcomers to this band, we were very impressed -- which made us wonder about a quip that Low singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk made midway through the set.
Almost as impressive as the show itself was the reception it got -- perfectly quiet at the moments when that was called for (which, with this band's delicate sound, was often), and ecstatic at all the appropriate times. It was a solid (if not sold-out) crowd, which seemed to be thrilled by nearly everything the band played, cheering passionately after each song.
If that sounds like what happens at every show, trust us -- this one felt different, and the outsized enthusiasm even caught the attention of the ever-gracious Sparhawk. After one particularly loud bout of clapping and yowling, he paused, thanked the crowd profusely, and quipped, "Believe it or not, the only other place where we get that kind of reception is ... Poland."
Which, really? While we can understand that Low is big in S.F. (a town sympathetic to many unusual artists), the fact that it's not bigger elsewhere -- and that it counts so many fans in Eastern Europe -- comes as something of a surprise. We're curious for any enlightened Low fans' thoughts on why this is the case.
(Also, if you have a chance to see Low, do it. You don't need to know lots of their music in advance to be transfixed by it.)