A team of six players, called Quiet Corral, took the Riot Room stage on Friday night. While their first song was observed with a meager audience by their final number they had attracted a crowded bar focused intently on the stage. The audience swayed to every melody introduced and there were even a handful of over-enthusiasts who danced, sometimes interpretively, throughout the entirety of their set. No small feat for an opening band hailing from Lawrence, Kansas.
This enthusiasm from the audience could only be explained due to the band’s buoyancy that was apparent on the stage. The elation they transcended had a refreshing youthfulness to it, which came as no surprise since some of these guys look barely out of high school. I have to admit this only added to my admiration for the band. Some of them may be young, but their musicality is evident. These guys aren’t just kids who dream of being in a band but have never held an instrument; these guys are good musicians.
Totaling half a dozen on stage, Quiet Corral is a blend of guitars (including electric, acoustic, bass, and even mandolin), piano and drums. A xylophone even took the stage for a song. Having so many instruments can oftentimes assist in creating a fullness to a set, but not necessarily any intricacies. Quiet Corral, however, manages to do both. Every instrument added a layer to the overall sound creating a depth that had subtle nuances of various tonalities and genres throughout.
While this can lead to difficultly in labeling them, it makes listening all the more fun. I recognize, however, that labels will inevitably occur and while I did see a number of cowboy hats and boots crowding the stage, I want to make note that the term “country” does not accurately capture the essence of the band. I suppose, “folk” seems a more apt description, but even still the band appears intent on not being trapped within the confines of any particular sound. Instead, I found them pulling from a plethora of influences. It would come as no surprise to find that they love Johnny Cash as much as U2 or Vampire Weekend. An old-timey four piece harmony lingers throughout the majority of their songs, but it is blended with a modern sensibility throughout.
In fact, they inadvertently seem to be embracing a style that I keep hearing everywhere and this is my biggest fear for the band, and possibly my only bittersweet complaint. Bands, like The Civil Wars, Murder by Death, or even She & Him seem to be moving back towards their musical roots intent on making traditional Americana their own. This new movement evokes, for me, the imagery of the moment Bob Dylan first plugged in his electric guitar and thought, “Hey, why not?” Dusty traditional sounds are being transfused with a dose of poppy dancibility and more than a dash of the electric guitar. It is in this budding genre that I think Quiet Corral would most happily linger.
After seeing Quiet Corral, it’s hard to deny that they have the potential to be more than just another local band. Their rousing melodies were infectious and greeted with admiration as well as plenty of applause, but they still seem to be on the cusp of finding that key ingredient that will set them apart from the good and catapult them into something greater. While they engaged the audience; I wondered how many would be humming their songs as they left the bar at the end of the night. Quiet Corral’s talent is nearly impossible to deny, but I fear that they may get lost in the shuffle. They are definitely good, but are they great? Fortunately I will maintain that I think they have the potential to be. They already have all the right ingredients; they just need a bit of time to let the recipe simmer. When it’s done, I think it will be a quite tasty dish and I hope to be there the night that it happens.
By Erin Tuttle
Photos By Rebecca Armstrong