It can, at times, be a curious thing when a well-known artist with a time-tested track record throws his or her audience a proverbial curveball and launches a completely new venture. Some projects sink, the newer sound falling on deaf, unreceptive ears, leaving the artist to chalk the new effort up to being merely a ‘side-project’ before ultimately returning to their fandom’s comfort zone. Chris Carrabba has been an obvious exception, segueing from the locally successful Vacant Andys to the more nationally successful Further Seems Forever to the hugely popular Dashboard Confessional over a decade ago.
Seeking seemingly to strike gold yet again, 2013 has found Carrabba recording and touring with a new project, Twin Forks. The folk quartet (Suzie Zeldin of The Narrative plays mandolin and provides backing vocals, Ben Homola from Brand New and Bad Books on drums and Jonathan Clark on bass round out the lineup) are currently in the early stages of a lengthy headlining tour of the US and Canada. Early fall strikes this particular writer as the perfect time for earthy, roots music, making, making the band’s late-September stop in Allston (which, for those that aren’t from the area, is sort of Boston’s version of Brooklyn in a ‘church of what’s happening now’ sense) ideal in both time and setting.
Carrabba’s perceived attempt to capitalize on a turn to a sort of Lumineers-esque sound has been the stuff of fodder for certain internet message board and comment sections (then again, what isn’t). Still, watching Twin Forks perform live, one does not walk away with the sense that anything in the experience was contrived or forced in the slightest. Showing very few signs of age in spite of a career spent on the road, Carrabba still seems every bit the earnest frontman that made him such a pioneer of the early emo, alt-punk days, particularly those days when Dashboard Confessional consisted of just, well, him. The audience on this particular night (and I’d suspect many other nights on this headlining run) was comprised overwhelmingly of fans familiar with those Dashboard days, and seemed to revel in the fact that, while the sound may have changed, there was something very familiar about what was happening. The band may be new and the sound may a little different (particularly on songs like “Back To You” and set closer “Scraping Up The Pieces,” which perhaps best highlight the layers that Zeldin bring to the band, best differentiating the sound from earlier DC efforts), but when firing on all cylinders, the sound seemed more like growth than like change for change’s sake.
Given the limited amount of material to choose from (Twin Forks’ self-titled debut EP was released only a week before the show), the set included a few covers. From an audience-participation perspective (always a vital element at a Carrabba-fronted show), the Talking Heads’ “And She Was” went over infinitely better than either the Steve Earle or Hank Williams covers, though the latter tunes seem closer to the core of Twin Forks’ true musical direction.
Support on this night came from local act Deltry (featuring Michelle DeRosa, formerly of Straylight Run, and whose set I missed all but one song of) and Matrimony, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based five-piece which features Ashlee Hardee Brown and her husband Jimmy Brown and her friend Ethan Ricks and her brother CJ Hardee and her brother Jordan Hardee (and her brother Darryl and her other brother Darryl). I thoroughly enjoyed the latter band’s set and their intriguing sound and stage presence, though to conceptualize exactly what they sounded like live has proven difficult for this novice music writer. There were certainly folky, Lumineery moments, but they almost seemed to run through a booze-infused punk filter, by way of a stop in Silversun Pickups Land. Check them out if you get the chance.
Click here to check out a few almost-good pictures of Matrimony and, of course, Twin Forks.