Live Review: the daffodils, yellow dress

april 4 • swillery

Before it was the Swillery Whiskey bar, or Tubbs, it was the Three Trees Coffee House. In high school, we’d go there for open mic nights to listen to artists swoon between sips of coffee and bites of pastry. As I got older, went to college and transitioned, it was almost as though the building at 118 W. Holly St. grew up as well; it became a haven for artists in a different, more energized ambiance, welcoming in the scents of booze and sweat from crowds enjoying live music into the early morning. Live music will make people leave their homes, and I left mine to watch The Daffodils perform.
I arrived at the Swillery later than planned, so I was only able to see one other band. Yellow Dress is a spunky, folk-sounding band based out of San Francisco, CA. Their set was fiercely loud and full of energy; the music reminding me a bit of The Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men. They seemed as though they would have no trouble fitting into the Bellingham music scene, yet I got the impression they were trying just a little too hard to win us over. Nerves may have gotten the best of them, because anxious chatter filled the silence between each song, and their set seemed to go by very fast. The music in itself is lovely, and I highly recommend listening to them, but their stage presence seemed to be lacking a certain confidence.
As The Daffodils set up, I was slightly worried that the bar seemed to be clearing out a little and was less packed than the earlier show, but I was happy to note that the elbow room didn’t last long. The second they began playing, it was as though people just grew out of the floor like daisies. The energy changed completely, going from the relaxed vibe the previous band had left us with to an excitement. The air was almost tingly, and it’s always a wonderful feeling when you look around the crowd at live shows and people are standing and singing and swaying and smiling.
I fall in love with artists and bands because of the lyrics to the songs they write. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good beat and a sweet melody, the way it gets right below your goose bumps and tattoos itself to your soul, so you can hum it any day, any time. And when an artist finds an amazing tune and pairs it with beautiful, and/or clever, lyrics, it’s kind of like listening to love, every time.
James Reisen of the Daffodils has been writing songs for 10-plus years, and they are nothing short of brilliant. But to experience them live is on a completely different level. (Their tracks, “You should just be playing guitar,” and “Now who wants me,” will change something inside of you forever when you listen to them.)
The Daffodils and its four members played the show as though that’s what they were put on this planet to do. Play music, entertain, and kick ass. They didn’t fill the space between tracks with a lot of fluff about themselves or stories about the songs, because they didn’t need to, and we didn’t want them to. Their music was so effortless, lively and confident that groups of people walking past the Swillery at midnight, heading who knows where, hesitated, stopped, and entered.
The music has a slight nostalgic do-wop feel, reminding me of the Wonders or the Beach Boys, yet they throw a hard beat in the middle of a song, at just the right moment. I could hear so many influences in their music, from Gram Parsons to Nirvana and they made it all work so elegantly.
By the end of the show, the dance floor was packed with people jumping up and down to the fierce cadence kept by drummer Jessica Bonin. The control over their instruments, voices included, was something to admire, soak up and revel in, and when the lights turned on at bar close and everyone blinked and laughed, it was as though I’d been bathed in music.
–Barbara DeVries