Smile Politely

Common Loon live: all the pieces are now in place

Common Loon with Santah and New Ruins
Cowboy Monkey, April 9

For almost a year I’ve kept Common Loon’s music close, wrapped around me in multidimensional, warm layers. I’ve slowly walked home from the library on a sweltering day, listening to “Dinosaur vs. Early Man” with my eyes closed. I’ve sipped hot tea during a snowstorm, intoxicated by “Ho-Hum Apocalypse.”

Friday night’s show served as the band’s official record release party for the long-awaited The Long Dream of Birds. Amazingly, this was the first time I’d seen the band live. I wondered how guitarist Robert Hirschfeld and drummer Matt Campbell could possibly replicate their trademark dreamy sound onstage, and I felt nervous, like finally meeting a date after you’ve exchanged a few emails. Would the mystery be shattered?

Nope. Not with Common Loon. Although the band appeared a little tense and nervous before taking the stage, they followed solid performances by openers Santahhh and New Ruins with the perfect introduction: the stunning bouncy “Happy Ending.” (Seriously, if those harmonies don’t put joy in your heart, you are devoid of feeling.) At 10 songs, the duo put on a compact-but dense-show, playing most of the new album including “Mexico,” “Dinosaur vs. Early Man,” and “Outside.”

Using an iPod for enhancement, Campbell’s boulder-crash drums and Hirschfeld’s slippery, jangly guitar sounded rich and full. They played a couple new songs and ended the show with the new album’s closer, “A Moment in Energy Transfers.” I’d heard that Madonna was part of the band’s live repertoire. Sure enough, they played a creeping, meticulous “Material Girl” as an encore. (I didn’t know whether to laugh or groove.)

With comparisons from Sparklehorse and Pond to the early Pink Floyd and the Sugarplastic, Common Loon are cultivating an exciting, distinct sound. And I have a feeling this is only the shimmery surface.

(All photos by Justine Bursoni)

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