You could be forgiven for thinking that Dry The River are the new kids on the block with their debut album Shallow Bed only just having been released, but by the looks of the heaving Academy 3 and the impossibility of being able to get a ticket for love nor money, they’ve already made their mark.
Having been working together since 2009, with three EPs to their name, countless gigs and a stellar support spot last year on Bombay Bicycle Club’s tour, they’re no strangers to the live circuit either. Their tongue in cheek choice of pre gig music - Michael Jackson’s ‘Will You Be There’ also hinted that they’ve done the rounds and are not afraid to show their convivial side.
We’re forever hearing people remark that a band don’t sound how they look and as clichéd as it sounds, that really is the case with Dry The River. Numerous tattoos, vests and dishevelled hair – there’s a bit of a grunge look going on - with front man Pete Liddle even sporting a “Haters Gonna Hate” t-shirt. It’s a far cry from the usual tweed waistcoat and flat cap combo we’ve come to expect from folk bands.
On paper, the band assumingly tick all the folk boxes, with many referring to them as an ‘indie folk band’. Yes they have a violinist and have an acoustic guitar, but there’s nothing twee about them whatsoever. A classic example of ‘never judge a book by its cover’ or more aptly - never make assumptions on a band without having seen them live first, they might just surprise you.
From the opening bars of ‘No Rest’ I was completely engrossed; their raw lyrical style and tumbling harmonies colliding with invigorated and uproarious guitar and drums. A grandiose sound with sentiments that have the ability to play through your head for days afterwards, and sure as anything they did.
The emotional underpinning in Liddle’s voice - its fragile robustness - is showcased effortlessly in ‘History Book’, with its religious undertones and highly metaphoric lyrics before culminating in a ball of crescendo. Similarly, the highly emotive ‘New Ceremony’ provides a goosebump inducing moment with the naked, eddying guitar accompanied lyrics "...I know it’s got to stop, love, but I don’t know how” echoing around the silent, equally transfixed room.
- Date: Thursday 19th April 2012
- Event: Now Wave Presents: Dry The River at Manchester Academy 3
- Venue: Manchester Academy 3
- Artists: Dry The River
Crowd favourite ‘Weights and Measures’ for the first part, was sung without microphones and subsequently led to the crowd drowning out Pete’s vocals with a word perfect rendition. The gratitude and enamour on the band’s faces was obvious to see, with them later remarking how amazed they are that people know the lyrics to their songs.
Guitarist Matt Taylor informs us that we have a famous face in the audience by way of Manchester United’s finest Rio Ferdinand, and we’re all ordered to welcome him with a roar of “What’s up Rio?”. We oblige, naturally. The next few minutes are then spent craning our necks around the modest room to catch a glimpse.
The saccharine, three part harmonies and intricate guitar melodies are offset with blustering, dynamic and booming sonic interludes, with ample head banging and ferocious lighting. In this sense they have an air of Biffy Clyro about them; the ability to move a song from elegant dovetailing strings to a complete juggernaut of a track steeped in euphoria. ‘Shaker Hymns’ provided a mid set text book example of this, launching with haunting, barely there vocals and violin, and culminating in thwomping bass from Scott Miller and much drum thrashing. Similarly, ‘Demons’ with its chord progression and pronounced drums gave the lyrical study of depression a multi-instrumental climax.
The band tells us they don’t believe in encores but are told they have to do them, nevertheless they return with the heartrending ‘Bible Belt’, which sees Liddle alone with a spot light and accompanying violin giving us the tale of a family destroyed by alcoholism. A harrowing rendition that again builds up and up and captivates. Despite the heartfelt sentiments a moment of humour is provided when Pete briefs us that “because I’m a hippie and don’t wear any shoes I’ve got a splinter… are there any medics in the house… it really hurts”. And with that they launched into closing number ‘Lion’s Den’, bringing a humongous wall of sound upon us, head thrashing, guitar bashing, shrieking vocals, sweat and maybe even a bit of blood and tears given the acquired injury. I hate using the phrase, but they really did ‘rock out’, akin to something you’d expect from Dave Grohl. Dramatic, and I loved it.
Recent years have seen an influx of ‘folk’ bands hit the scene, with acoustic guitars, beards and ethereal sentiment all very commonplace. Whereas once they were something fresh and new, now such acts are just ’another’ on a long list, many failing to make any mark. Tonight, Dry The River proved any critics wrong, as well as those that insist on constantly comparing them to the likes of Mumford and Sons. Yes, there’s elements of folk, but there’s also great elements of hardcore, rock and post-punk. The juxtaposition of frangible, unassuming, tentative lyrics and hooks with the boisterous, intense melodies that they possess stands alone and renders them incredibly arousing both on record and live.
There’s no doubt they will be one of the stand out bands on the festival circuit this year; their all consuming live performance perfect for abundant tents and buoyant souls.
Dry The River are ironically riding the wave, and long may it last.
Words: Michelle Lloyd
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