Anacortes is a sleepy island town along the coast of northern Washington state. It sits in the rain shadow of the Olympic mountains, which to some degree spares Anacortes of the Pacific Northwest rains. Each of the bands playing at the Rickshaw on June 21, except openers the Dyeing Merchants from Victoria, hail from Anacortes.
Motorbikes, second in the lineup, is the one-person project of Paul Adam Benson. Benson combined bare-bones hip hop beats, layered guitar and bass riffs reminiscent of a gray day at the beach in sunglasses, and some well-practiced vocals, all mixed through the skillful use of loop pedals. Benson percussed the body of his acoustic guitar and proceeded to lay down melodies, darker and slower than usual perhaps, in order to match the dirges of Mount Eerie, yet to come. Motorbikes’ pop roots revealed themselves as the set proceeded. It was splendour.
Hungry Cloud Darkening played a short set of only three songs. Nicholas Wilbur and Allison Foster, who form the core of Hungry Cloud Darkening, eloquently expressed a slow-core vision of indie dream-pop with sparse vocal harmonies. The three-piece band returned to support Phil Elverum as this night’s incarnation of Mount Eerie.
Mount Eerie’s performance on this particular night drew mostly from their newest release Clear Moon, apparently the more accessible of two albums to be released this year. They began with the album’s opener “Through the Trees Pt. 2” a meditation on our place between nature and the human world. The fog machines were all at full blast with deep green stage lighting pouring across the mist. It was as though Mount Eerie hoped to reproduce the feeling of the woods and mountains inside the artificial landscape of a concert venue. On the album’s title track, “Clear Moon,” Elverum painted luminous celestial landscapes amidst doom-metal guitar drones on his electric 12-string. A standout song of the night, “Lone Bell,” created tension of ascending bass lines contrasted with drum flourishes evoking a mood of anxiety where Elverum asked, “What is left of the dissipating dream world I made?” I could feel echoes of that human dream world with its bells and drones through sheets of rain and into the night.