When Portland-based band Ezra Bell takes the stage, the floor fills up with folks eager to dance. And this was definitely true during the intimate Doug Fir Lounge show on March 16.
Lead singer Ben Wuamett set a playful tone for the show by joking that his guitar playing might be subpar, because he’d be playing with his bionic hand. The self-deprecating humor continued throughout the night, but the guitar playing was nothing to apologize for.
The energetic set began with Wuamett throwing his voice high as he jumped and played guitar.
The crowd welcomed the band’s most recent hit, “Don’t Just Sit Here and Drink Yourself to Death.” Opening with just keys, Wuamett’s voice rang out:
“Let us take the kids to the graveyard. Let them see what’s feeding the stems. Tell them try to be as quiet as they are. Try and think of death as your friend.”
The song did a tremendous job of building momentum as instruments and singers were added. Ezra Bell’s lyrics tend to place listeners in a confused state of sadness and celebration, a complexity that many writers struggle to fully capture.
The band’s six members were all talented instrumentalists. Aaron Mattison’s saxophone really seemed to differentiate this band from the rest. It provided a jazzy touch to the whole show.
Levi Zalman played one of the most entertaining bass solos this writer has heard in a long time. The crowd danced and bobbed their heads as he bounced each note.
To close out their set, Ezra Bell ditched the instruments – aside from Wuamett’s guitar – and gathered around the microphone. In perfect unison, they sang a song one could only assume was titled “Hey, hey, hey. U.S.A.” The band had written their own, satirical and politically charged ballad.
As Ezra Bell began tearing down the set, the crowd was anxious to hear some of these newer works from the recording studio. It’s the mark of a great show – when a crowd is still begging for more.
(David Jacobs-Strain opened for this show. Jacobs-Strain was a masterful guitar player, often picking intricate and complex patterns. His lyrics place the audience in the forest near the Mackenzie River, a fitting mood considering he hails from Oregon. Check out more about David Jacobs-Strain and his bluesy routine here!)