Dark Dark Dark used a dizzying variety of instruments, including what one member called 'the used Cadillac of accordions.'
Minneapolis chamber-folk sextet Dark Dark Dark charmed fans and newcomers Sunday night with an intimate and inspiring show at the Project Lodge.
The group transfixed an already hushed crowd with an alternately lush and spare set of songs. They were mostly from Dark Dark Dark's newest album, the sweet and soaring Wild Go, released this year by Supply and Demand Music.
With a dizzying variety of instruments such as keyboard, clarinet, trumpet, and what band member Nona Marie Invie called "the used Cadillac of accordions," Dark Dark Dark blends Eastern European folk with New Orleans jazz and a healthy dash of Baroque pop to produce a complex sound that breaks your heart in the same breath that it restores it. "We all have dreams we forget," Invie sings on "In Your Dreams," "When you're alone, you're so alone."
The band was strongest on songs like "Robert" and "Nobody Knows" when charming, bespectacled Invie was on vocals. Invie has a lilting, almost childlike voice that is simultaneously steely and vulnerable. It's become a cliché to compare female vocalists to Regina Spektor, but the comparison here is hard to ignore. The night's closing song was the hypnotic "Daydreaming." "This is my favorite song to play," Invie admitted. It's not hard to see why.
Since Dark Dark Dark's 2008 debut album, the band has matured artistically and has a growing fan base to match. "We're becoming one of those bands with a wall of merch," Invie joked between songs, "like with beer cozies."
Before Dark Dark Dark was southern Indiana-based Elephant Micah, the one-man band of Joseph O'Connell. His set began with the best song of the night, the wistful "Finer Than It Did," which featured a twangy Appalachian dulcimer and O'Connell's stirring vocals, warm and slow like maple syrup. Later in the set, he switched out his dulcimer for a guitar, for a less interesting, but still satisfying sound. "The moon glow is a low note in a three-quarter time," O'Connell sang in the haunting "Loon Call," about love, loss and the beauty of the Midwest.
Sunday was the first night of Dark Dark Dark and Elephant Micah's U.S. tour. The bands head to Europe in November.
The first band of the evening was Madison's The Weather Duo, who performed an electro-acoustic chamber set that sounded alternately like a swarm of bees, a TV on the fritz and a 1950s Martian landing. Each composition crept in with an unresolved dissonance, building again and again to a satisfying crescendo and then release.
Pat Reinholz was on cello and electronics, Ben Willis on bass and occasional vocals. Their compositions weaved and knotted like a web, at times so tight the crowd held its breath. Anna Weisling, the band's self-described video sorceress, projected a video piece that often mesmerized and occasionally disturbed. The Weather Duo's strongest piece was "Good Morning, Loth," a title that got some laughs from the audience.
As at so many shows at the Project Lodge, most audience members sat on the floor, legs folded amongst a growing pile of PBRs. But when the show ended, the crowd rose to its feet. Dark Dark Dark's members looked a little embarrassed to return for the obligatory encore. As the crowd shuffled out the door at the end of the night, I heard one fan of the band remark, "This place is really crowded! They're going to have to play a bigger place next time." I wouldn't be surprised.