Okkervil River, Wye Oak bring indie folk to Water Street

On Saturday Sept. 24, Austin-based indie folk band Okkervil River and Baltimore’s folk rock duo Wye Oak rocked out at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, N.Y.

Doors opened at 7 p.m. and a small line of eager fans filtered into the venue. Wye Oak came on stage to a sparse but very energetic crowd. Singer-songwriter Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak had initial trouble getting her amp to work until, luckily, drummer Andy Stack hit it with his drumstick. Wasner began to play as the crowd cheered the lucky repair. They played for roughly an hour, showcasing a set mixed with noisy indie rock songs and mellow folk music to great effect.

As Wye Oak’s set came to a close, more and more people entered Water Street Music Hall until it was finally full of noisy, excited spectators of all ages. After a brief wait, Okkervil River came on stage led by frontman Will Sheff.

The band’s two-and-a-half hour set was comprised mostly of songs from its newest album I Am Very Far such as “Piratess,” “Wake and Be Fine” and “We Need A Myth.” They also played crowd favorite “For Real” and “So Come Back I Am Waiting” off Black Sheep Boy, their most critically acclaimed album. They managed to include as much of their new material as they could without disappointing fans by leaving out old favorites.

The crowd bobbed and moved to every song, even the slower ones. The atmosphere was sweaty and sticky but no one in the crowd cared. Sheff was so sweaty he had to change twice.

Some bands today cannot hope to duplicate their songs in a live show, but Okkervil River had no trouble duplicating if not improving on the songs they had recorded. The songs were crisp and energetic. Sheff’s voice was as beautiful as it was haunting and his funny quips between songs made the audience push closer to the stage in anticipation.

Adding to the performance was the rich array of instruments the band used. Sheff switched between an acoustic guitar on the more folksy songs and an electric guitar on those that were higher-energy. Sometimes Sheff made the switch mid-song, a testament to his skill as a musician as well as a performer. He even picked up a tambourine from time to time. Guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo played mostly electric guitar but switched to a banjo, lap steel and mandolin at certain points in the show.

With the combination of guitar, banjo, tambourines, drums, keyboards and sometimes even a violin, it became hard to judge whether the music was rock or folk at all.

When Okkervil River left the stage, the crowd clapped and cheered loudly until the band rewarded them with an encore. Where most bands will stick to only one or two songs, this band gave them three. They played “The Rise,” “It Ends With a Fall” and “Unless it’s Kicks.” After the encore the band bowed and thanked the audience for coming. The enthusiastic crowd cheered for them one last time as they left the stage.