Okkervil River Makes Impressive Use of Small Performance Space at Colony Woodstock (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

It does not get any more intimate for a show then the tiny performance space at Colony which is inside the restored 1929 hotel in Woodstock, New York. Okkervil River hit the artsy upstate town on June 15th for the second to last date on their current tour after releasing their latest album, In the Rainbow Rain.

Current Okkervil River guitarist, Will Graefe opened the show with his band Star Rover, a duo with drummer Jeremy Austin. The set was full of intricate beats and simmering guitar peppered with soaring vocals. The lights were dimmed to showcase animations projected on Austin’s bass drum adding to the atmosphere.

The venue was slow to fill after the doors opened and during the warm-up band’s set, but mysteriously filled right before headliner Okkervil River took the stage. Whether it was local knowledge of the venue’s start times or text alerts, the bulk of the audience arrived just in time for Okkervil River to start their set, even though the show schedule was running late. Those who arrived late missed an entirely high energy set by Star Rover.

Like most of the shows on this tour, Okkervil River kicked off the show with a song from the new album, “Pulled Up the Ribbon”. The song had Sarah Pedinotti who normally plays keyboards and Benjamin Lazar Davis, who plays bass, switching places. The band’s versatility was on display throughout the show. Lead vocalist and songwriter Will Sheff split time between acoustic guitar and synthesizer and Davis frequently switched from bass to keytar. The group slid effortlessly between new and older material. New songs, “Love Somebody”, “Famous Tracheotomies” and “Don’t Move Back to L.A.”, blended beautifully with older songs including “It Ends With a Fall”, “Down Down the Deep River”, and “Pink-Slips”. One of the great things about small room performances is when Sheff politely asked the audience to try and be quiet for “External Actor”. The song had quiet moments and even when the group stepped away from the microphones the vocals could be clearly heard throughout the entire performance space. The energy was ramped up for “Judey on a Street” that featured high octane rhythm and scorching guitar by Will Graefe.

When the band finished “Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe”, Will Sheff made another polite request to the audience. The artist asked, because the small venue had an awkward entrance to the stage, with stacks of equipment cases and other equipment that made entering and exiting the stage area difficult, if the audience wouldn’t mind if they did not go through the motions of leaving and returning to stage for the encore. A loud applause made it clear they did not mind. So Sheff announced that this would the last song “of the set proper” and joked that this way people didn’t need to yell for an encore. After the band finished “John Allyn Smith Sails” someone in the crowd had Sheff chuckling by yelling “encore” anyway.

The band did not leave and come back for the encore but members of the group switched places. Sarah Pedinotti took over on bass, bass player Benjamin Lazar Davis went on drums, and drummer Cully Symington moved to keyboards for “Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas”. The band also played a cover of Donny Hathaway’s “Magnificent Sanctuary Band”, and Sarah Pedinotti and Will Sheff shared lead vocal duties for “Lost Coastlines” The band’s four-song encore of an epic show ended with “For Real” from 2005’s Black Sheep Boy album.

Okkervil River will return for three northeast shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Asbury Lanes in New Jersey and Underground Arts in Philly on September 13,14, and 15. The the group will hen head across the Atlantic for the European leg of their tour.



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