Anyone who squeezed into Union Transfer last Friday witnessed a full-throttle show from Strand of Oaks. Supported by Wild Pink, the concert was the last on their joint North American tour. The bands packed passion, energy, and a lot of guitar into the homecoming gig for Strand of Oaks.
The headliner played a fourteen-song set. Eight songs came from the band’s new album Eraserland (including three of the first four selections). The band opened with the bittersweet “Weird Ways” and “Final Fires” before turning back to the old reliable “Goshen ’97.” The tremendously catchy “Ruby” capped the initial burst of music.
The gig was emblematic of the music that lead singer Timothy Showalter created in Eraserland: passionate heartland rock that hits on multiple musical and emotional levels. This came through with electrifying garage rock, soul-baring lyrics, and tremendous musicianship. The terrific album translated well to the Union Transfer stage.
Showalter is a laid back front man. Dressed in dark leather shoes and a wide-brimmed plateau hat, the singer evoked a perpetual cool. Even when he unleashed an epic solo, Showalter maintained a relaxed demeanor that signified how comfortable his current creative wave is.
As they ran through the middle chunk of the set list, the locked-in band gave a great collective effort. Solos, grooves, and big choruses engaged the audience. This kicked into an extra gear when Showalter laid down extended licks with his guitar. The man dressed like Stevie Ray Vaughn played like Mike McCready: fluid and feel-oriented. More than a few fans in the audiences lost themselves and fist pumped towards the stage to acknowledge the band’s magic.
Beginning with Eraserland’s “Visions,” Wild Pink’s slide guitar player sat in on a series of songs. The extra guitar added a tremendous layer to the already wonderful sound in the room. It was the first instance of the scale of the music growing. The songs became longer as the rock went into full swing.
The final run of songs (“Shut In,” “JM,” “Rest Of It,” “Forever Chords”) encapsulated the musicality of Strand of Oaks. The rollicking “Rest of It” fit snugly alongside the epic “JM.” It is on “JM” where the band melted the aforementioned faces in the front rows one more time. It was the most arena rock moment that a band could discharge in the intimate Spring Garden venue.
Opener Wild Pink set the table with a mellower run of songs. The New Yorkers released their sophomore album, Yolk in the Fur, last year. Singer John Ross’s mellow style is more akin to a warm glow than a typical garage band. Their music was a welcome contrast to Strand of Oaks, allowing the pairing of bands to fill out a great bill at Union Transfer.