WRITTEN BY: EMILY ELIZABETH FEDAK
In one of the last stops on their U.S tour, Okkervil River captivated the crowd at Union Transfer. October 18 may have been a Tuesday night, but the band rocked away those middle of the week blues.
Upon the release of their new album, “Away,” front man Will Sheff opened with “Okkervil River R.I.P,” a beautiful way to set the tone for the woozy, organ filled songs to come. Okkervil River gave the audience a signature set, including “A Girl in Port” and one of their most infamous tunes, “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe.”
The chatter of the audience fell silent when the first opener, Landlady, played an interesting combination of Brooklyn rock, jazz and improvisation. The band featured two drummers, one of which electronic. Most notably, Landlady performed its own version of the Talking Heads’ “Mind”. The crowd began to pour in right after the second opener, psych-pop Brooklyn band “Lip Talk,” who performed experimental tracks with plenty of guitar loops and synth to go around.
Since the crowd at Union Transfer was on the smaller side, an initial sense of intimacy was felt between the crowd and Okkervil River’s shiver-worthy, heartbreaking lyrics. Vibrant autumn colored leaves were wrapped around microphone and guitar stands, while lyrics such as, “shivering from the late fall cold, I felt like a solid ghost,” rang true on this cool October night.
Okkervil River, hailing from Austin, TX, performed plenty of new tracks from “Away.” Okkervil River’s sound seemed completely reinvented compared to “The Stage Names,” released in 2007, and “The Stand Ins,” released in 2008. The performance combined elements of jazz, folk and rock, meshing together seamlessly. The bassist and cello players added a palpable feeling of warmth and grace to the show, helping portray Sheff’s major creative breakthroughs.
Throughout the night, the crowd was captivated by Sheff’s candor and inexplicable Bob Dylan-esque shrills. He often provided the audience with anecdotes giving insight into how his songs were written. Toward the end of the show, Sheff said, “I wrote this by writing down the first thought I had every morning for a month.”
Based on the vibe of his performance, it was clear that Sheff’s main purpose was to provide the crowd with a personal experience through song and ambiance. During “So Come Back, I Am Waiting,” Sheff sat down on the stage, crossed his legs and spoke to everyone so poetically that it would be impossible to leave the venue without feeling moved in one way or another. Okkervil River also performed i, “Unless it’s Kicks,” “For Real,” “Mary on a Wave” and “The Industry.” It is safe to say Okkervil River left their Philadelphia fans with an even greater passionate for their music.