WFPK strays from the usual for final Winter Wednesday

For the final Winter Wednesday of the 2014-15 season, WFPK called in two sets that brought a capacity crowd to the Clifton Center. Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, opening band the Soil & the Sun offered a change of pace from the other Winter Wednesday openers this year. The seven-piece band is able to produce an incredible sound because of their intriguing combination of oboe, violin, guitars, accordion, percussion, piano, keys, and vocals. After meeting in college and growing from only two members when they originally started in 2008, the Soil & the Sun now have three albums and an avid following.

One thing that struck me during their performance last Wednesday was that the Soil & the Sun hardly spoke on stage. I’ve never been to a Winter Wednesday performance where the audience was so loud in between songs, but it wasn’t that they weren’t engaged in the performance – it was that they couldn’t get over how different and cool the sound was. I get a little bit of a San Fermin vibe when listening to them. It’s clear that there are so many layers to their songs, which makes me wonder if someone is the maestro (as Ellis Ludwig-Leone is for San Fermin), or if they magically are able to string everything together. I would think that would be a difficult task when so many people and instruments have to mesh. Speaking of the size of the band, Stacy Owen mentioned that they had been to Zanzabar for the Communion series only a few months before – how they were able to all squeeze on that small stage I have no idea.

Sarah Jaffe followed the Soil & the Sun with an impressive set of her own. She has an amazing vocal range and can switch between notes like it’s nothing. Her presence on stage is commanding, which pairs nicely with her sly, sarcastic, witty humor that she sneaks in between songs. Jaffe is hard not to like. Her openness make her very endearing and at the same time she comes across as a cool and confident person. During her last song, “Don’t Disconnect,” the audience followed those instructions as it was difficult to not sit there still as possible with chills from her raw vocals.

And there’s still more that set this Winter Wednesday apart from others. It was the first time I’d been to a show where someone was signing for an audience member. It brought me back to November when Actors Theatre performed Tribes, a play in which the story line was about the Deaf Community. I was as engaged by the interpreters as I was by either performance. I noticed that the interpreters switched off in between songs and spent that time re-reading the lyrics in order to sign correctly. The Deaf Community is a world that I am very unfamiliar with, but I find it intriguing.

WFPK, thank you for an incredible season. You killed it for this last segment of the Winter Wednesday program. We can’t wait for this snow to melt so we can head down to the Waterfront for the summer series. The beans have been spilled about Shakey Graves (!!!!), and I know the rest of the lineup will not disappoint.


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