Field Guide Sends Shivers at House of Blues

It was a miserably hot Sunday. I’d anticipated my walk to House of Blues to be a whole lot less muggy than it was, but with a cardigan and a fast pace, I was beginning to understand that I was still very new to a Texas summer. My phone’s data wasn’t working, so I was left finding my way from the West End train station all the way through row after row of brick buildings, speed walking the whole way to ensure I wouldn’t be late for my interview with indie folk artist Field Guide, a.k.a. Dylan MacDonald.

After a pleasant sit-down interview, alongside witnessing the band’s soundcheck firsthand and basking in air conditioning, I was all the more excited to see what the band had in store for us. While waiting for opener Jack Van Cleaf, I chatted idly with the girl next to me at the very front of the crowd, a schoolteacher who was giving up her Sunday night—with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call the next day—just for the band.

It was a midsize crowd for a midsize room, but the sizes of each brought with them a certain intimate feel, the vibe that everyone gathered there that night was there because they were fans. When opener Jack Van Cleaf started, enough people knew every single word to make apparent that, yes, this truly was a devoted crowd.

By the time Field Guide—comprised of Dylan MacDonald and his guests for this tour, drummer Michael Dunn and bassist/pianist Kris Ulrich—finally took to the stage, the crowd was pressed up against the bars separating the photography area and the rest of the crowd. I was fiddling with my camera, and MacDonald’s fans were kind and chatty, asking me if I enjoyed taking photos at concerts. I could simply smile and say that yes, yes I did.

The loose, informal vibe of the Field Guide concert was certainly enjoyable to say the least. Not only were MacDonald’s listeners keen to sing along when they knew the words, and to lend him their support whenever he took a sip of beer, shouting, “Bottoms up!” every single time, but they were also just as keen to listen to the stellar musical offerings before them.

MacDonald has arguably some of the best live vocals of any live performance I’ve ever seen. Even during the soundcheck, he sounded just like his studio recordings—vulnerable, warm, and a little raspy, all perfectly controlled, no matter how melancholic. Ulrich and Dunn kept up well; the three of them had an easy-going chemistry onstage, one that made the concert feel more like an intimate showcase than anything else. But with stellar light design, and a crowd eager and willing to sing along, Field Guide showed up at House of Blues and played their hearts out, leaving themselves bare on the stage without, somehow, appearing overtly vulnerable.

The trio later met their crowd with continuous smiles and laughter, taking the time to greet every single person who cared to make their way over to the merch table when heading out the door. Even disregarding the talent-filled performance put on that night, and ignoring the chemistry and quality of the band, just on vibes alone, I ten-out-of-ten would make that muggy trek to House of Blues again, just to see Field Guide once more.