Down by Okkervil River

by Kelly McClure

Okkervil River took a break from their year long lull in touring to perform with Levon Helm at the NYC venue Terminal 5 last week. Seeing Okkervil as an opening band can be disappointing because their sets are over in what feels like seconds, and even when the band is headlining a performance there is never enough time once you’re immersed in their songs and the stories within them. The band took the stage at 8pm on the dot and played a solid forty-five minute set, that although short, was far from disappointing. The show started with excited murmurs from the audience while singer Will Sheff strummed the opening chords of “Westfall,” a song from their 2002 album Don’t Fall in Love with Everyone You See (released by Jagjaguwar) which is usually reserved for encores. The band kept the momentum going throughout the set, ending it all with “Unless It Kicks.” Sheff sauntered around with the mic in his hand, talking a good portion of the lyrics rather than singing them, and changed a few words to include the audience members in the third balcony. It was then apparent that either the alcohol was kicking in or he was a teensy bit high on his own ego, regardless it was entertaining.

One of my favorite parts of seeing an Okkervil River show is the enthusiastic smile and demeanor of drummer Travis Nelson, but I’ve had a change of heart since Lauren Gurgilio joined the band and started stealing the show with every instrument she touches.  She switched between the lap steel and guitar within the course of a single song, and performed a mandolin solo during “The Okkervil River Song” that turned all eyes on her. The dynamic between she and Sheff is undeniable; whether they are facing each other swaying along with their instruments or resting their sweat streaked faces on one another’s shoulders, it is apparent there is an on-stage chemistry between the two. I sincerely hope that the band is planning to headline a tour soon, and trust that when they do it is in your best interest to check them out.  

– Aurora Montgomery 


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