LIVE: Dry The River @ The Black Cat Backstage - 9/19/12

All photos by Haris Zlatervic (

It's almost a disservice to England’s Dry The River that their beautifully crafted recorded music might give the listener the idea that the band follows exclusively in the folksy footsteps of its countrymen Mumford & Sons or US brethren Fleet Foxes, because live, the group quite definitively rocks. The quintet crammed their expansive and explosive sound into the Backroom at the Black Cat on Wednesday night, imbuing the small space with the same energy and volume that would easily fill the larger upstairs room. Previous performances in DC as an opener had made the band work to convert the audience into fans, but this night, the Black Cat was filled with established fans who knew every word, every guitar stroke and every rock star move.  

The appearance of Dry The River is one of split personalities made up of long haired, tank top wearing guys who exploded into hair-swirling guitar-wielding dervishes sharing the stage with flannel wearers and a close-cut cropped hair punk drummer. But as different as they looked, their harmonies were tight and gorgeous.

The song “Weights & Measures” was a great example of this dichotomy in practice. A hauntingly gorgeous cut from the EP of the same name (it also appears on their full length Shallow Bed) as started out very similar to the recording but quickly distinguished itself as its own, very unique animal. The vocal harmonies were almost unaccompanied at the beginning, but by the time the instruments finally came in, they had managed to lift and elevate the mournful sounding song to a rousing and cathartic experience for the masses. And while songs like “Weights & Measures” dominated the set, tracks like “New Ceremony,” a song carried by  lead singer Peter Liddle's soaring vocals and bolstered by the groups signature harmonies, managed to offset the feelings of sadness and regret with something closer to longing.

All in all, Wednesday night was all the proof that anyone needs that Dry The River is a band to keep an eye on. That they are playing rooms as small as the intimate Backroom should be considered a gift for now, because it’s likely that sooner, rather than later, we’ll be seeing this band on a much larger stage, and with a whole lot more of their devoted and recently converted in tow.