Save The Arcadian, a budding band of students from the University of Mary Washington, played the most recent of AMP’s Fridays at Five show. The six-piece folk rock outfit created a dexterous wall of sound that weaved its way through their set of mostly original songs. It was clear from the beginning that this band was incredibly well-practiced — you could tell that each member knew what the other was going to play even before they played it.
Some notable aspects of their performance included the quick-fingered piano player and the vocalist who sounded like a budding Kevin Devine. They also employed a varied range of instruments. Their guitarist played the mandolin, and one of their members switched back and forth between cello and violin. They appeared to be a “typical” folk-rock band, but I still cannot bring myself to simply dump them into that category.
It seemed as though there were two subsets of Save The Arcadian’s original songs. Some of them were foot-stomping, rootsy songs in cut time with three part harmonies. These songs were less than three minutes long, and the band ripped through them with the precision of an established pop band. Others, most notably the two-part “At The End,” were slow burning ballads with touching lyrics and beautifully-executed cello parts over lush piano melodies. For me, “At The End” was the highlight of the show. The song was reminiscent of the supergroup Bad Books (an amalgamation of Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine) with its somber melody, almost-whispered vocals and a song structure that rose and fell like an ocean wave. Luckily, it can be found on their EP, “That Bright Tide.”
It is this side of Save The Arcadian’s set that keeps me from calling them a typical folk rock outfit. During these songs, it felt like they were a few electric guitars and a synthesizer away from an indie rock group in the vein of Local Natives or even Broken Social Scene.
The only complaint I had about their performance was their stage presence. It took me a while to realize how much I was enjoying their music, simply because of their somewhat lackluster energy on stage. Many bands who have a “laid back mystique” on their recordings still manage to bring a strong energy to their live performances, and I think it would do Save The Arcadian well to find that balance.
Other than that minor setback, their set was full of enjoyable originals alongside some well-chosen covers of bands such as Passion Pit. Personally, I’m rooting for these guys. Maybe it’s the How I Met Your Mother reference in their band name, but it’s probably the thoughtful songwriting and the lush texture that this talented group of musicians manages to bring to their original numbers. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Save The Arcadian again if they ever come back through Williamsburg — and I hope they do.