thanks to Parisa Ashraf and the WSN staff!
December 2nd, 2007
Live: Lewis & Clarke at the MoMA (11/28/07)
By Parisa Ashraf
“When I met these guys, we were naked together… In a desert.” Judging from their introduction to the restless, noisy crowd of art-goers, Lewis & Clarke initially seemed like a hazy throwback to the carefree and drug-addled days of the ’60s. While their scruffy beards and lack of shoes may attest to that fact, their music went beyond a mere genre to something more timeless.
Part of the Museum of Modern Art’s Poprally showcase, Lewis & Clarke’s new folk set complemented artists Gert & Uwe Tobias’ quirky woodcuts and paintings of owls, goats and trees, transforming the MoMA into something more like an Appalachian trail.
Lewis & Clarke consists of Lou Rogai, Eve Miller and Russell Higbee, all of whom hail from the Pennsylvania hills, an influence reflected in their lovely and unpretentious music. Rogai is the group’s visionary, and he possesses a quiet, magnetic presence. From the first twang on his battered Spanish guitar, the crowd’s murmurings ended for the duration of the set.
The brief performance weaved together songs from the band’s new album Blasts of Holy Birth, where Miller’s cello adds serene depth to songs like the somber “Black Doves” and the album’s title track, which features lines like “And the nervous cream of dreamers carried blood into our hearts.” Rogai’s thoughtful voice seems to effortlessly carry his subtle vers, warranting comparisons to Devendra Banhart’s spontaneous poetry and Iron and Wine’s meditative melodies. The set’s highlights, however, came at the end, with a performance of “Be the Air We Breathe,” a tranquil song with a breathtaking buildup featuring Higbee’s quick harp plucks racing against Rogai’s delicate fingerings. “Comfort Inn” was another standout, and is a cover originally written by Hella frontman Aaron Ross.
Lewis & Clarke’s pastoral sounds may not have been what a Wednesday night art audience expected, but they were soon hushed by this “cream of dreamers.” Miller’s chamber cello, Higbee’s graceful harp and keyboard arrangements, along with Rogai’s own unimposing lullabies, sent the audience into sun-soaked reveries far from the fuss of the city.