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Darlingside At Mercury Lounge, Friday, May 25th, 2012

On their debut recording EP1, bass player and lead vocalist David Senft's soulful voice overwhelms Darlingside, it feels like the main instrument even when Dave's not singing  during the violin coda on "The Catbird Seat". On stage, Darlingside owe a tremendous amount to drummer Sam Kapala. When your singer is playing bass, and you are anchoring three other stringed instruments of various genesis, you are gonna drown spectacular without an anchor.

During Darlingside's essentially perfect set at Mercury Lounge Friday night, it was hard to notice Sam between mandolin solos here and a erhu accompaniment there. But afterwards, trying to figure out what the heck happened, I found myself thinking about the tough, utilitarian drumming.

Darlingside are a quintet of Boston boys playing string based, interlocking rock music. They look like Ivy League folk boys, like Mumford And Sons, but, on stage at least, they give into the music all the time and have a thunderous sound, more than capable of integrating violin and mandolin into a song, more than happy to throw out everything but drums and handclaps. Darlingside's 45 minute set flew by, there wasn't a wasted moment and yet they still found time to clown around, to speak to us, to connect us in with them. This was not just wonderful, if a little too fussy, rock music, but it was also a great performance, an onstage kinship between equals.

I didn't know all the songs at the time, if you go to Darlingside's website they have been previewing their two years in the oven follow up to EP1, Pilot Machines,.But everything stuck: "The Ancestor was better than its title,  "The Woods" sounds like Real Estate, in a good way. "The Edge Of The Earth" is Bon Iver on steroids.  Even better was a new song whose name I can't figure but whose hook goes "All the terrible things I've done" with all four singers joining in.

Which leads me to my biggest problem with Darlingside. The lyrical content isn't up to the playing or the singing, or the songs for that matter. My guess is that by keeping the lyric to a wind blowing type metaphor thing, they hold off pretentiousness but it comes off as a mixed art prosody. It reminds me a little of another lyricist who drags me, David Crosby. 

That is more than a quibble but less than a deal breaker. And it isn't always true. The show stopping "The Catbird Seat" lyric needs no apology from me.. Incidentally, Auyon Mukharji FINGER PICKS HIS VIOLIN at the end of that song.

What else? The Erhu is a two string Chinese violin and Harris Paseltiner is the first member of a rock band I have yet to see play it as a lead instrument and it gives an emotional coloring to every song he played it on.

Darlingside call themselves a String rock quintet, but you could abbreviate that to just a rock band. A good one.

Grade: A

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