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Words by Kristina Ensminger

Who: The Loom

What: Opening act for BOBBY on a short Northeast tour

Where: Mercury Lounge – New York, NY

When: December 3, 2011

Part of being a professional music fan is getting your hands dirty; if you want to find the scattered pieces of gold hidden in the refuse, you’re going to have to rummage through the trash. But the thrill of uncovering a new band is what keeps you digging, and when that discovery comes in the form of an exhilarating live set, it doesn’t get much better. I heard about The Loom from a friend who books loft shows in Brooklyn as a part of her underground supper club, Whisk & Ladle, so we arrived early to check them out.

The five-piece used more than 10 instruments in their set, but the textures were woven together so seamlessly that it never felt overwhelming. Frontman John Fanning was on lead vocals, guitar, banjo and ukulele. Dan DeSloover racked up some Jimmy Page bonus points and rocked the electric bass/bow combination. Vocalist/keyboardist/percussionist Sarah Renfro—the replacement for Sydney Price, who left the band shortly after the band recorded their debut LP, Teeth (Crossbill Records)—alternated between the mic, the keys and various percussion instruments, including an extra floor tom that she pounded in a mesmerizing, trance-like state. Lis Rubard was a one-woman horn section, with a trumpet and a French horn that she ran through a delay pedal; and drummer Jon Alvarez was relentless, only stopping long enough to stand for full-band vocal harmonies.

Their live show had the remarkable combination of studio quality sound, captivating energy, and a cohesive group dynamic. They opened with the sparse “Song for the Winter Sun” from their self-released EP, At Last Light, and then dove into the frenetic, percussive rhythms of “The Middle Distance.”  The battle between calm and manic and the contrast of folk harmonies and electric dissonance were pleasantly jarring. Fanning’s songwriting prowess was clear from the outset.  His storytelling skills were less grandiose than Colin Meloy, and his lyrics were more optimistic than Spencer Krug, but equally earnest. There are hints of Krug in Fanning’s vocals as well, particularly in the chants of my personal favorite, “With Legs” (Trade winds and the lion’s share / White teeth and your golden hair / Your sure hands and your pedigree / Your wet wings in the dampened leaves).

The Loom will hit SXSW and embark on an extended West Coast tour next spring, and according to Fanning, their second album is anxiously waiting in the wings—all of the songs are written and about half of them are arranged. This is definitely a band you should catch live; but in the meantime, grab their record and cozy up for a sonic staycation with the tightly knit layers and radiant textures of Teeth.

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