Sahan Jayasuriya

Low, masters of minimalism, take Turner Hall

The echoey concert hall and a respectfully silent audience provided the perfect setting for Low to play a resonant, career-spanning set.

By - Nov 25th, 2012 01:36 pm
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee

Low recently performed at Turner Hall Ballroom, playing music from each of their eight albums. All photos by Angela Morgan.

Duluth, Minn. trio Low has been touring and releasing albums since the early ’90s. Along with bands like Bedhead and Red House Painters, they pioneered the indie rock subgenre now known as “slowcore.” While their contemporaries eventually called it quits, Low have stuck around to the present day, continuing to release records and push the limits of the genre. The band played a fantastic career-spanning set at Turner Hall Saturday evening, their first headlining visit to Milwaukee since 2008.

The band opened their set with a slew of new, as-of-yet unrecorded material. Since 2001’s Things We Lost in the Fire, the band has continued to evolve, incorporating new sounds into their work, as evidenced on albums like The Great Destroyer and Drums and Guns. The new material was a natural progression from their most recent album, 2011’s C’Mon. If these new songs are any indication of what their next album is going to be like, it will definitely be a strong one.

After a solid stretch of new material, the band launched into “Monkey,” the opening track off Destroyer. The live performance gave the song a little less grit than its recorded form, but not to its detriment. The vintage soul homage “Nightingale” followed, with Sparhawk’s barely-there guitar strums sitting atop the strong rhythmic foundation of drums and bass, lushly filled out by the two part vocal harmonies shared with drummer (and wife) Mimi Parker. Minimalism has always played a rather prominent role with the group, and the stripped-down stage setup was very much a reflection of this. Regardless of their equipment and personnel limitations, however, the band sounded bigger and fuller than bands with twice the amount of members and gear. Sometimes, less really is more.

The set truly spanned the group’s entire career. Low played at least one song from every one of their eight albums. Definitive tracks like “Sunflower,” “Over the Ocean” and “Shame” found their way into the set, sounding every bit as good live as they do in recorded form.

This was very much enhanced by both the audience and the venue. The echo of Turner Hall allowed the songs to fill the room, and the audience maintained a respectful demeanor throughout, allowing the listener to hear every note and the spaces between them. Aside from Low’s music, the room was absolutely silent, which couldn’t have been more appropriate. Apparently this wasn’t the case when the band opened for Death Cab For Cutie at the Riverside earlier this year, so I was pleased once I noticed the audience’s overall silence. With a band like Low, you truly need to experience them in a silent room or you will undoubtedly miss so many of the intricacies that make them great.

Lucky for us, we didn’t miss a thing.

Song writing sister duo Vic and Gab opened for Low at Turner Hall. Photo: Angela Morgan

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us