Dry the River, Scala, London
Buzz is something that many bands strive to attain in their careers, but which increasingly few deserve. What was once the whisperings of aficionados in record stores or at gigs is now almost entirely web-based, the internet offering the kind of instant word-of-mouth excitement that once took weeks to disseminate. All of which has worked out well for East London five-piece Dry The River, as the packed audience at the prestigious Scala tonight will testify.
Given that DTR have not yet released a studio album, the size and enthusiasm of the crowd is impressive: their handful of singles, EPs and free-to-download tracks distributed via social media have clearly made an impact. As the group dive headlong into the foot-stomping climax of opener "No Rest", however, it's not difficult to see why there is such a buzz about this band.
Although operating in the saturated neo-folk climate, Dry The River do not come across as opportunists looking for an easy buck: their efforts and endeavour are genuine, and their music, while retaining certain pop sensibilities, is far more interesting than most of the lightweights operating in the genre.
Frontman Pete Liddle offers humble, gracious chatter to go along with his far-reaching, powerful tenor: in the standout "History Book", the singer charms in the tender opening before soaring through an ambitious finale. His impassioned vocals and guitarist Matt Taylor's mournful riffs combine to create some terrific melodies, while the pair's layered voices, combined with that of bassist Scott Miller, also impress. Will Harvey's violin offers yet another melodic outlet, adding rustic wholesomeness, while evading the clichés that string instruments in rock music so often fall prey to.
Indeed, DTR seem like a band focused on melody over complexity, and are confident enough in themselves to place these excellent refrains at the core of their music, eschewing the perma-distorted guitar solos or overbearing drum patterns many of their peers adopt.
There are a few lulls, notably in the more balladic moments that struggle to sustain the energy, and a few notes that are reminiscent of songs you already know, but overall this is a very accomplished show for a young band to put on. They seem, already, to have learned a vital lesson: if your songs can't stand on their own merits, buzz will not get you very far.
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