Rote predictability is one of the perceived downfalls of local music scenes, but the truth is you never know what you’ll discover when you show up.
Sometimes bands decide to try something different. Sometimes they’re forced to. The latter situation befell The Weight of Whales, a fully-staffed indie rock ensemble forced to improvise when their usual drummer became unavailable for Saturday’s gig at Junctionview Studios’ annual art extravaganza, Agora.
They recruited Curtis Cole from Maza Blaska to handle lightweight percussion duties and decided to attempt a minimal version of the wild, kitchen-sink pop they’ve been spreading around Columbus.
This kind of thing happens relatively often. You go to review Andy Cook and The Wanderloons, and damn it — no Wanderloons! And while playing shorthanded doesn’t necessarily show off the band at its best, it does give them a chance to show how plucky and adaptable they can be.
The Weight of Whales mostly thrived in the face of this challenge. While their recordings portray a band willing to attempt far-flung sounds, their songs survived the transition to a more traditional folk-rock form.
Guitarist Larry Doyle (an associate of fellow junkyard folkie Andrew Graham) still managed to mix things up a bit, running his acoustic through ragged distortion at times and attacking the strings from all sorts of different angles. His inventive playing accented the songs without dominating them.
Not that anything could dominate this music besides Jeff Meyers Jr.’s voice. Minus The Weight of Whales’ usual ruckus, Meyers continued to caterwaul like a less obnoxious version of the guy from Cold War Kids, or perhaps some bizarre Jeff Buckley/Jack White gene splice. His blaring, nasal delivery went down far better than I’d expect from such an abrasive instrument; only on a flamenco-tinged number near the end of the set did his voice become grating, and only because he indulged in some unfortunate screaming.
Cole held his own, too. Though he barely played a thing, he made his little percussive flourishes count. Not bad for filling in on short notice.
Although I’d prefer to see these guys with their lineup intact, witnessing this effective bit of improv was perhaps even more impressive.