Event Reviews
Disappearer

Disappearer

with Owl

Cavalcade • Fruita, Colorado • July 21, 2023

I was on the bus to my tropical beach vacation, about to depart and marveling at the availability of WiFi, when I got the news. Perhaps it would have been an easier four hours without the knowledge of Mimi Parker’s unexpected passing from ovarian cancer. As it was, I queued up her band Low’s last two albums (a harsh transition from “their latest two albums”), and settled in for deeply meditative ride.

Parker’s departure was felt as a deep shock to Low’s relatively small but highly dedicated fanbase, many of which included far more recognizable musicians. Out here in the Western Slope, it’s resulted in Owl, a tribute band with a limited lifespan that was playing its last show tonight, in this utilitarian but cozy venue in old downtown Fruita. Composed of guitar player Willie DeFord, upright bassist Sally DeFord, and Trevor Adams on drums, Owl took on the challenge of bringing Low’s slowcore meltdowns, full of painful and crystalline beauty, to their audience.

Owl
photo by Julius C. Lacking
Owl

The set list ranged through a career that spanned almost three decades, and although it didn’t include any material from the aforementioned last two albums, which lean heavily into studio processing, it did get through a wide selection of songs, from relative hits like “Sunflower” and “Words” to deep cuts like “I Hear The Window Shake” (a collaboration with Dirty Three). As a bonus, you didn’t have half the audience shushing the other half throughout the show, something paradoxically humorous and infuriating that happened at the only Low performance I got to see, a long time ago.

Was it a faithful tribute to the Duluth band’s catalog? For the most part, yes. Despite what you might think, it’s painfully difficult to play this type of music, and the band did an admirable job of filling in that space with the right notes and nuances. More importantly, this music depends on a heartbeat, not a metronome, and this was clearly felt in the performance. You either dismiss Low as incredibly tedious dragged-out country music, or it touches something deep inside you and you bask in its heavenly aura, and there’s no doubt which camp the band and audience was in.

Once Owl’s set was over, the stage was broken down into another minimalist setup, with Trevor Adams taking a place behind a microphone, Karla LeFevre taking the throne on a slightly less minimal drum kit, and Erin LeFevre adjusting the strap on a Telecaster guitar. Disappearer is named after the Sonic Youth song, and the band flew right into an angular opener, drums and guitars locking step into a midrange scuffle, leaving Adams to face the microphone and unleash an intense dose of nervous energy in its direction.

Disappearer's Trevor Adams
photo by Sally DeFord
Disappearer’s Trevor Adams

Recalling the textures of Sonic Youth, naturally, but also calling forth other acts from the post-punk canon like Wire, the Minutemen, and Superchunk, the band moved through an abbreviated set with ease, maintaining an undercurrent of frantic electricity throughout. Things got political for a song about Representative Lauren Boebert, with Adams noting that “Bobo is Spanish for fool,” then things got very serious with “Last Dance In The Dark,” a song about the Club Q tragedy featuring lyrics from Grand Valley queer poet and activict Caleb Ferganchick, who was present and got on stage to collaborate with the band. The band ended the night with a low tom rumble, moody telecaster jangle, and something about a “filthy rat,” a menacing but appropriate closer for an evening of complementing contrasts.

Disappearer


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