I caught The Lonely Forest for the first time in September of last year, opening for Margot And The Nuclear So And So's at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. It was the first I had ever heard of the Anacortes, Washington based band and I instantly fell in love with their music. Their latest album, "Arrows", is one of my best of 2011 so far. So I was certainly excited to see they were coming to the Metro Detroit area for a headline show in between opening for indie legends Death Cab For Cutie.
I've seen many a show at The Pike Room, above the Crofoot in Pontiac. It is one of my favorite small local venues, great sound in this place as well. Unfortunately, there were a few factors not working in the band's favor for a decent turn-out. Yes it was a Wednesday night, not the greatest night for a band making their first stop in the area. But Mother Nature dumped rain on the area all day, massive storms that had streets flooded and the roads backed up messes. We even briefly considered not going but carried on, even though I figured there would be a small turn-out.
I was anticipating maybe 100-120 people to be in attendance, but sadly there couldn't have been more than 30 people in the room. A good portion of them seemed to be friends of the opening act, The Blue Anthems. Based out of Royal Oak, the four piece consists of brothers Brandon and Brad Benvenuti, along with friends Jeremy Hager and Greg Morris. The band plays straight forward rock, but with a melodic edge which is right up my alley. Their set left me impressed and they'll definitely be a local band to keep an eye on. Supporting the local music scene is extremely important to me, even if I can't make it out to as many shows as I'd like. Happily for me, The Blue Anthems had some free sampler CD's pressed featuring two of the songs they performed, including my personal favorite from the set, "Bigger Than The Music." You can also download these tracks on their official website.
The Lonely Forest were up next and I do like the fact lead singer/guitarist John Van Deusen made light of the situation as he looked from the stage at the small gathering, chuckled and dropped a few comments during their set, asking those who were there if they were enjoying themselves. It had to be disheartening but the band carried on and delivered an energetic set as if they were opening for thousands at a Death Cab show. It would have been easy to pout and deliver a half-assed, going through the motions set and, to their credit, they did the exact opposite. Van Deusen was bouncing all over the stage practically every song.
They opened with one of my favorites off "Arrows", the rollicking "Woe Is Me...I Am Ruined", followed by "(I Am) The Love Addict", and what was nice about seeing them this time was knowing all the material. It was fun discovering a new band to follow at the Margot show, but even better hearing personal favorites now.
A nice surprise was the inclusion of "Let It Go", which did not make it to "Arrows", but appeared on their self titled EP that was released last year, which I picked up at the Blind Pig show. Up next was the song they opened with in Ann Arbor that instantly made me take notice, "Turn Off This Song And Go Outside". Another of the new album's best, "Coyote" followed before they closed the set with "Tunnels" and the new single "We Sing In Time", which Van Deusen introduced by discussing the video they had just shot for the song. There were a few others in attendance who caught the band at the Blind Pig show and Van Deusen asked for their opinion on the new video as they were clearly fans.
I made a point to introduce myself to drummer Braydn Krueger and Van Deusen after the show, just to let them know there were others in the crowd who had come specifically to see their band. I had to compliment Krueger, he is an amazing drummer, and ask about their shows with Death Cab For Cutie. Van Deusen was in good spirits, despite the small crowd, and described it as a "weird night". He seemed to have a good attitude about it, I'm sure every band has stories to tell about that night they played for a handful of people, and thanked my brother and I for showing up and buying a shirt as well. He could not have been nicer about the whole thing and to us, which just impressed me all the more. Hopefully this will not keep the band from returning to the area, maybe a return to the Blind Pig would be a better venue in the future.
It really was a crime a band as good as The Lonely Forest played to so few, especially when you add the solid opener, the Blue Anthems, to the show. But seeing how they soldiered on just reaffirmed my belief in this band all the more.