On April 15, Seattle-based indie-folk rock band Crooked Fingers headlined for a good-sized crowd of enthusiastic and well-groomed 20- and 30-somethings, in the main room of the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, supported by opening act Dolorean.
The Knitting Factory, a small but stylish venue tucked away in the same block as the Graumen’s Chinese Theatre, has three concert rooms, the largest of which features a popular bar and balcony and plays surprisingly good preshow music.
Around 9:30, an hour and a half after the show was scheduled to start, Portland-based folk-rock three-piece Dolorian opened for a medium sized crowd who talked through most of their set. Lead singer and song-writer Jeff Hanson has a beautiful country-style voice, drawing upon artists of the past such as Neil Young. All talented musicians, Dolorian was a bit sleepy for the Friday-night bar crowd, but impressed the onlookers nonetheless
When Crooked Fingers hit the stage, the small floor room of the Knitting Factory was nearly packed and silent in anticipation of the six-piece band. Crooked Fingers opened with a Spanish-influenced instrumental song, featuring trumpet, acoustic guitar and Latin percussion.
The band transitioned smoothly into their second song with vocals and an upbeat indie-rock tune. As lead singer Eric Bachman began singing, the crowd could not help but bob their heads and slowly sway to the sound of his deep, slightly twangy voice, all the while making sure not to spill their drinks.
A good amount of the tunes showcased during the evening were from Crooked Fingers’ fourth studio album, entitled ‘Dignity and Shame,’ which came out in February earlier this year from Merge Records, an eclectic independent label that features fellow rising indie bands Spoon and The Arcade Fire.
Crooked Fingers was assembled in 2000, after frontman and songwriter Bachman dissolved his former band, indie-rock icon Archers of Loaf, and assembled his new team of musicians. The band put out three LP’s before entering Juniper Studios in Seattle with producer Marin Feveyear (Screaming Trees, The Minus Five, Presidents of the United States of America) to record Dignity and Shame. On this album, the band expands upon their signature sound, using more of the Spanish influence that they explored in albums before.
As a singer, songwriter and keyboardist, Australian Lara Meyerratken is a triple-threat who has worked with the likes of Ben Lee, Nada Surf and Luscious Jackson. Meyerratken contributed to Crooked Fingers’ latest album. Meyerratken brings a vibrant presence to the live show, adding touches of her beautiful voice for backup to Bachmann.
The other members in the band add to the live performance with their stage presence and impressive musicianship. In addition to singing, Bachman switched off between acoustic guitar, electric guitar and piano, executing impressive finger work on both while bassist Bob Johnson switched between electric and up-right bass, sometimes mid-song. Backup guitarist Joe Swanson sometimes switched between electric and slideguitar, while keyboardist Robert Goulet also doubled on trumpet. Drummer Stanford Hernandez, who was as tight and energetic as you could ask for in a drummer, stuck to percussion, but switched off between set, bongos and shakers.
The Six-Piece switched off between more upbeat indie-rock tunes and slower, folkier songs. Though every song was relatively well-received by the crowd, it was clear that there was more enthusiasm for the band’s more energetic songs.
Personally, I switched off between a growing fan and getting sleepy as the band alternated between the faster indie-rock songs and slower folk-rock songs. Though they clearly exuded experience and musicianship, there was just more drawing power for me in the songs that had a little more drive.
The band finished their set with a solo song featuring Bachman on piano. This left a lasting impression on the already impressed crowd, reassuring anyone who had doubts about this band that the quality of Bachman’s voice was at least something that could not be contested.
For any folk fans, some indie-rock fans and anyone who likes any of the bands on Merge Records, Crooked Fingers is a band to check out. Even if their LPs don’t capture your heart, their live show will most likely leave you with a positive impression.
Tour dates and other information on the band can be found at www.crookedfingers.com.