Review: Breathe Owl + Photographers at Cactus Club

by Joshua Miller (@jmmiller528)

Sometimes even major hail storms have their silver linings. Yesterday throughout the day, in a continuation of Wisconsin’s predictably unpredictable changing weather, a seemingly never ending pouring of hail, wind and rain drenched many plans. Luckily though the storm let up as the evening grew older, and with that people ventured out in the world to the Cactus Club to see some intricate folk stylings of Breathe Owl Breathe and Photographers that helped brighten the mood with hope, laughter, child-like wonder and journey in the lyrics and overall a great night of music.

A decent sized crowd began to form as Chicago based band Photographers set up on stage and began to unravel a intricate folk tapestry that helped win over the crowd. Singer Maren Celest and the rest of the band had their pick of instruments from ukea lle, clarinet, chord organ, and xylophone. At many points during the set Celest pulled out her clarinet and added it’s soothing tones to the band’s blending of guitar, organ and plunkering of keyboard, drums and xylophone. She flexed her voca l cords to a wailing sound midway during the set as if wailing into the night, gesturing her hands with a lot of emotion. The band played a number of new songs from their album, which is scheduled for release this summer, and will likely have photographs as everyone in the band actually does photography. The band’s melodic moving folk was mixed with humor and jokes which kept the mood light.

Breathe Owl Breathe also brought plenty of humor, as well as catchy, simple and almost child-like melodies and lyrics in a folk style that incorporates some contemporary pop. The Michigan trio’s – featuring Micah Middaugh (guitar, vocals), Andréa Moreno-Beals (cello, vocals) and Trevor Hobbs (percussion) – recent album “Magic Central” plays out like a rugged wonderer in the woods longing for a relationship and core meanings of things and along the way unravels story after story about the simple and connecting facets of life.

The band ‘s songs last night told stories about someone rollerblading listening to music, baseball bats and breaking glass (to which they used nice effect for breaking glass) and dragons falling and trying to stay in love with a princess. Middaugh provided a perfect narrator for the night, letting his wise and wistful sounding voice to wrap around the lyrics and humorous commentary and stories between songs. Moreno-Beals, who provided supporting singing, cello playing and more, as well as Hobb, helped meld the lyrics with a great folk backbone. Moreno-Beals and Middaugh seemed to enjoy themselves emenselly as they playfully traded vocals, sometimes in call and response fashion. Middaugh cracked some jokes, including one where he narated a story about needing a hail coat, a lead up to one of my favorite tracks of theirs “Own Stunts.”

Breathe Owl Breathe are no strangers having played the club before, and made the most of the surroundings throughout the night. During “Lake Light” the two singers stood at the front of the stage to sing a moving version of the song. Each band member frequently switched instruments, including banjo, keyboard, and others. Later Middaugh frequently stepped off stage into the space in front of the crowd, and began to get the crowd fired up, instructing them to get involved with the songs whether clapping or singing the lyrics to the songs. To this request the crowd happily complied. “Swimming” found the crowd making swooshing noises while “Dragon” found the crowd splitting clapping rounds as the story of a dragon in love unfolded. At one point Middaugh was singing, Moreno was drumming away with forceful emotion, and crowd clapping away to the infectious melodies, and there was definitely magic in the air.

After a wild storm, the concert was the perfect way to put a positive ending to the day and hopefully the band can come back again (hopefully a weekend) to find new fans.

Buy: Breathe Owl Breathe – Magic Central
MP3: Breathe Owl Breathe – “Across The Loch”
MP3: Breathe Owl Breathe – “Own Stunts”
MP3: Breathe Owl Breathe – “Swimming”

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