Concert Review: The Wild Reeds @ U Street Music Hall (4/16/19)

The Wild Reeds
The Wild Reeds (Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana)

The Wild Reeds gave the ‘craziest city to perform in’ a night of soothing folk harmonies and a spirited show worthy of DC. For an unassuming Tuesday night, this performance now ranks up there among the best concerts thus far in 2019.

The Wild Reeds represent indie folk at its finest, while still mixing in elements of country and rock. From LA, the band is led by the vocal harmonies of three women; Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe and Sharon Silva. They rotate the vocal duties as easily as they each play the guitar or other integral instrument of that moment, and complement each other perfectly with chilling backing harmonies. It’s not every band that can operate successfully with so many singers. (The Eagles come to mind, because aside from also being from California, that’s how my mind works.) Not to be outdone, Nick Phakpiseth and Nick Jones round out the instrumental accompaniment on bass and drums respectively.

The five-piece band took up positions to the tune of The Ronettes “Be My Baby”, kicking off their set with “Young and Impressionable”, with earnest guitar playing, where the lyrics belted from Mackenzie cheekily deconstruct the attitudes of objectifying women.

Later “P.S. Nevermind”, this time with Kinsey singing, is about not conforming to expectations, and highlights how they easily move between vocals. Sharon would get her chance to lead a few songs later with “Don’t Pretend”.

Mackenzie wanted the people enjoying themselves up front (maybe not just them) to move closer (for a hug), but was thwarted by a barrier that left a bit too much room between the stage and the audience. She also highlighted whenever someone asks them about the ‘craziest city’ to play in, they respond with DC. Later she told a story of mistaken identity that happened on U Street; where a homeless man outside recognized her as being part of the band. But it turned out he thought she was actually Sharon who he had spoken to previously. Oops.

They are touring for their third album Cheers, released in March. They packed the set, playing an incredible 20 songs overall, with a vibrantly lit Cheers writ large behind the stage. Mackenzie said they were going to play all the songs, and almost did, only skipping three of the album’s 13 songs.

I enjoyed “Play It Safe” from Cheers, partially because it has a melody that reminds me of a Garth Brooks song (I forget which), but mostly because it has some of my favorite lyrics of the evening. It speaks to taking chances, where the line ‘If you’re not livin’ on the edge, you’re taking up too much space’ resonates with me as a call to get after your dreams.

Midway through, “Catch and Release” dropped with fuzzy and funky guitars, and is what I would call a classic country song in its use of a fishing metaphor (country songs love metaphors, right?) for the fickleness of love.

For “My Name”, the Nicks took a break for a few songs, and the ladies put on a quietly affecting three part harmony lesson, bringing the crowd down to a subdued hum.

But not for too long, when the Nicks returned they strummed and picked up the pace for “Capable”, from their second album The World We Built.

In “Lose My Mind” I enjoyed the high note on the chorus of ‘if I ever lose my mind’ as well as the selective high to low emphasis of certain words in “Fall To Sleep”, which is also a slow, honey-sounding song with Kinsey’s deeply resonate voice that shined through in its coda.

The main set ended with “Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight)”, a big song from The World We Built and likely the first song I enjoyed when giving their music a try a couple years ago.

I think you need to pick up a copy of Cheers, that is now on my to do list. But definitely look out for the next time The Wild Reeds visit DC. They came in 2018 and the year before, so the chances are pretty good they will be back soon!

Setlist
Young and Impressionable
Moving Target
Telepathic Mail
P.S. Nevermind
Fix You Up
The World We Built
Play It Safe
Don’t Pretend
Catch and Release
A Way to Stop
My Name
Be The Change
New Ways to Die
Capable
Only Songs
Lose My Mind
Fall To Sleep
Giving up on You
Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight)

Encore
Where I’m Going

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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