Dillion Warneke and the Dismal Tide, Wyatt Parks and the Mute Choir, Tim Mechling, Feb 17 at the Shakedown

What better way spend the night before President’s Day than by going to a bar and watching some country folk bands? Feeling Patriotic, I anticipated a night of boot-stomping and regret-forgetting. I had come mostly to see Wyatt Parks and the Mute Choir, but had heard some of Tim Mechling and heard some buzz about Dylan Warneke. This was apparently true of much of the crowd, as the setlist shifted, The Tide moving back to headlining while the Mute Choir went second, and the hometown crowd made it clear who they came out for. It’s weird how that can happen, especially when the Mute Choir were totally hanging out to see the headliner. Come on, friends, hang out. You payed for the whole show, at least get your money’s worth. Especially when the headliner turns out to be a burner and just tears it up to a captive but small audience.

Tim Mechling opened with some folk country songs that really had a nice completeness to both the songwriting and the sound. There were times where Tim seemed to have confidence with the vocals, feeling it out more than expressing it out, but for the most part he was a solidly attention-grabbing performer. When the headlining guitarist and bassist joined him for a couple of songs, the sheer fullness of the group was impressive. It was a good opening set with both uppers and downers, getting people’s musical perceptors warmed up and ready for something familiar.

Wyatt Parks and the Mute Choir were billed as headliners but went on second. If I were a journalist I would tell you why but I’m not so I won’t. They still played a long set, but the current lineup (I’m so used to seeing them with Shank on Banjo) had a lot going on, keeping your attention better than I think a more conventional or stripped down band would. It served as a testament to the big live band. They were in to it and that’s at least 6 people getting into it. With Wyatt’s sister Rae on lead vocals, the band took turns supporting the Parks’ lead vocals, with tasteful and soothing interludes and departures with different band configurations thrown in to keep things moving. It was a cool production, something I haven’t seen much of. While there were moments that it might have seemed like someone in the band got off time or missed a part, those were subtle and quickly remedied. The band put together a long set with a lot of material and made it move really well.

After a quick set change, Dillion Warneke and the Dismal Tide took the stage. Like the other bands there that night, they were an exceedingly young band, with most of the members in their early 20s; the Mute Choir’s drummer had to leave after their set because he wasn’t old enough. After seeing Dillion and Alex join Tim earlier, I was excited to see what they would do with their own band. Their mix of southern blues and, well, mostly blues had a certain modern and young feel and voice to it that I couldn’t place, and which I thought was pretty unique. They covered a lot of ground, really hitting home on a cover of Dr. John and, even though Dillion doesn’t have the same gravelly baritone of Dr. John, the energy of the guitar and bass on that track was something that they did a lot and should help appeal to a generation fixated on the hula hoops and pac man video games. These dudes could seriously play, too, and easily and seriously entranced the audience. I don’t know if people were supposed to dance, but they mostly wanted to watch intently. This was a hell of a performance and really caught some people flat-footed that night.

The night was definitely a success for the ever-strong Whatcom County Folk and Country Music Scene (WCFCMS, we’re making patches) and it was great to see the young music being played with such energy. Next time you see any of these folks on a bill, consider yourself intrigued.