Last Night: Sea Wolf at Detroit Bar

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Brandon Ferguson
The Hype: Playing nondescript but high-quality indie rock for the past ten years, Alex Brown Church, a.k.a. Sea Wolf, has produced two full-length albums. Last year, he released White Water, White Bloom. Their inoffensive brand of eclectic folk music was recently deigned suitable for the soundtrack of cinematic phenomenon and all around crap-fest, New Moon (blech!).
Last night, Sea Wolf, accompanied by a full band, which included cello and keyboards, graced the illustrious riser at Detroit Bar with an indie-tastic presence. The problem as I see it, is that it isn't good enough to be good anymore. What set indie music apart originally was it's  pioneering spirit, (i.e. it was refreshing when the Pixies emerged from a sea of Aqua Net teased hair styles and spandex to change the game.)  Now it seems, everybody has a band who borrows their name from a hip TV show, cult film, or--as in Sea Wolf's case--a Jack London novel and plays sets full of acoustic-driven introspective ballads. As far as this reviewer is concerned, Sea Wolf has an uphill battle.

The Show: There were issues with the PA system all night long. All three bands, through no fault of their own, dealt with perpetual squealing from the room's speakers. It was unclear if this technical malady was the reason Sea Wolf singer Alex Church flubbed several verses throughout the band's set, but the sonic flaw was painfully obvious. There were more than a few tense stares sent from the stage to the sound booth in the back of the room, no doubt augmented by the fact that Sea Wolf was making a live recording of the show to be used on an upcoming summer release. 

The band opened with the 1950's inspired strummer "The Traitor" off of 2009's White Water, White Bloom. Singing in a voice that was at times reminiscent of Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst (Sea Wolf's latest album was recorded by frequent Bright Eyes collaborator Mike Mogis), Church worked his way through an uninspired set in front of a largely lackluster audience. The dreariness livened temporarily with the cardiac rhythm of  "Middle Distance Runner" off 2007's Leaves in the River as well as set closer "You're a Wolf" off the same release. The latter was loudly requested by several in the crowd.

The song "The Promise," originally released as a free download, was played twice at the show's end for the benefit of the recording. Bearing the lyric "I will love you in the morning if you love me tonight," I was reminded of the legalistic bartering for sex men inevitably engage in at one time or another. Side note: Keyboardist Lisa Fendelander was a sight to behold. Svelte, yet shapely, she manipulated two keyboards as well as a device known as a Marxophone with aplomb. Occasionally she would flash the hint of a smile to others in the band while lilting softly.

The Verdict: This show was a sad reminder that indie rock is dead. It's unclear where the genre can go from here. Sea Wolf was preceded by Yellow Red Sparks and Patrick Park.
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