Sunday, February 17, 2019
Portland House of Music and Events, Portland, Maine
Every so often, I’ll make my way to a show knowing very little about both bands. This was one of those nights, and I am *so, so glad* I was in the room for this Oshima Brothers and The Western Den show. Color me impressed.
Dan made me dinner and then I made my way over to Portland House of Music and Events right before 8pm when the Oshima Brothers were scheduled to take the stage. I ran into two of my seniors from school who are both going with me to Costa Rica in April and we caught up about our February vacation plans before the show began. I was surprised by how many little kids were at the show with their families–most gathered together and sitting on the floor in a pile. The Oshima Brothers are from the Belfast area, and I suspect most of the folks in the room were their friends and family.
I was impressed with Sean and Jamie right away. They have a maturity and ease on stage that might come from years of practicing with your brother at home. Their songwriting, musicianship, and confidence on stage was compelling. Jamie was busy making most of the sound that night with pedals and foot percussion and a variety of instruments, too. Their harmonies are lush and Sean’s falsetto is lovely. 98.9 WCLZ is currently playing their newest single “Ellie.” I also enjoyed their excellent cover of The Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love.” Sean was super enthusiastic about the Diriga Quartet who accompanied the brothers for a few songs and brought their songs to even greater life.
The Western Den came together at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and their musicianship is dazzling. Co-led by Deni Hlavinka from Virginia on piano and Chris West from Bermuda on guitar–the two met online on a Berklee accepted students forum seven years ago–The Western Den also included three more musicians on drums, violin, and trumpet.
Deni talks the most on stage, and I appreciate musicians who give the audience context for the songs we hear live. She introduced “Company” as a song about “the temporary moment you’re with family and can appreciate the sacredness of that” featuring the fabulous Diriga Quartet, who Deni asked to join their band permanently. She introduced “xx” (named for the female chromosome) by telling us that she is named after her grandmother and feels like “there’s a power in belonging to where you’ve come from.”
The Western Den’s new album, A Light Left On, is stunning. It’s beautiful from start to finish–honest, vulnerable, layered, and just supremely listable. I’m only a few listens through and it’s mesmerizing and reveals itself a little more each time. It’s also absolutely impossible for me to pick a favorite song or two as their ethereal, airy, orchestrated folk/pop songs are 100% up my alley. Their Facebook page says this about the album–
“’A Light Left On’ weaves through struggles of love, purpose, self-actualization, and the ephemeral nature of all things. and through all of this, to hold on with all of your might to the glint of unwavering hope for the certainty of belonging and the unapologetic pursuit of what is waiting for you.
you are important. you are a vibrant and powerful being. you are the light left on. this is for you.”
Watch The Western Den’s Daytrotter session recorded earlier this month in Iowa and get to know this truly impressive band.