Wesley Jensen started their set calmly, warming up to the crowd that stood in a wide semi-circle a few feet back from the stage. All six members played their parts, swaying back and forth at the most. After the first song or two, encouraged by the head nods and applause from the crowd, they leaned more into their music. The namesake of the band, Wesley, rocked his head and shoulders between verses, keeping his fingers pressed to the keyboard but moving every other part of him. The stage right guitarist with a pink electric matched that energy, picking at the strings and swinging the guitar around. Behind them, the drummer kept a lively beat with a powerful bass drum and spattering of cymbals. By the end of their short set, Wesley Jensen had some members of the crowd dancing to their infectiously happy music.
Blank Range took the stage next. The four piece band looked like a ghost with his living friends on their way to a denim convention. While their guitarist dressed in a full white western suit and cowboy hat stood out visually, the guitarist in dark jeans and denim jacket separated himself from the band soon into the set with his expressive singing and energetic guitar playing. He lead the band in numerous instrumental jams, stumbling around the stage with his knees and his ankles bent almost to the breaking point even in cowboy boots. The drummer in light wash jeans and shirt behind him brought the same emotion and energy to the music, though with the drum set towering around him, it was hard to tell. Though the crowd remained in its distant semi-circle formation, they yelled and clapped along with the songs, indicating that they enjoyed the act.
The crowd finally collapsed on the stage while The Wild Reeds set up. By this time, the venue was reasonably full but also full of chatter. Some of the conversations died down when the live music started up again, but not enough for me to be annoyed at the people in the back who couldn’t move outside with their talking. Luckily, though, I was close enough to mostly not hear anything besides the wall of sound coming out of the speakers.
The Wild Reeds started their set with their most notable asset: their beautiful, harmonious voices. They sang “Fix you Up,” a song that features all three women singing together with two electric guitars and a keyboard with their two backing men on bass and drums. Their voices floated through Dada and captured the crowd’s attention just like they did when I first saw the band in 2015 and fell in love. It might be easy to assume that with such soft, uplifting voices as theirs, the band can’t bring the energy that it takes to be a captivating folk rock act. Very quickly, however, they asserted themselves as the act deserving of the headline with heavy electric guitar and bass drum lines. They tossed their hair into their faces and shredded during the instrumental interludes, then yelled at the top of their voices while retaining their perfect pitch.
In addition to songs from their newest album, The World We Built, The Wild Reeds returned to their previous album, Blind and Brave, to play some crowd favorites. At the beginning of the distinctive drum beat for “Where I’m Going,” the crowd cheered and launched into the lyrics along with the band. It was clear by the way the women on stage laughed and grinned out at Dada that they treasured the reception of their music, especially when one man in the crowd yelled “hey!” the way that the band does on the studio recording for “Where I’m Going.” They ended their set with the longest song on the new album, “Fruition,” with guitar solos and layered sounds characteristic of the band. The crowd didn’t ask for an encore, so when they finished, the band set their instruments down on the stage and went to meet fans.
The Wild Reeds have only improved since I saw them two years ago, which is extremely heartening to find as they start their climb to fame on the national level. I wish the crowd made the environment more conducive to listening closely to the music, but I’m still impressed by the show all the bands put on.