Lost in the Trees
June 28, 2012
In the right setting, and with the right music and lyrics, a song can literally move someone to tears. It happend at the Visulite Theatre on Tuesday night when Lost in the Trees presented the sparse "This Dead Bird Is Beautiful." The song centered on singer/guitarist Ari Picker offering somber lyrics while multi-instrumentalist Emma Nadeau sang operatic tones behind him. The crowd stood in silent awe of the performance while a lone fan in front wiped tears from her eyes.
Emotions ran high within the venue - not only through the band's music, but due to a regional homecoming of sorts for the six Chapel Hill band members. Lost in the Trees was glad to play the last show of its current tour so close to home, having been on a two-week run to promote its latest album, A Church That Fits Our Needs. The mood was intimate, with a small, but devoted, crowd soaking up the sounds within the Visulite's candlelit setting.
Although at one point Nadeau tried to motivate people to dance, movement in the crowd remained more emotional than physical. The lyrical content is not lighthearted subject matter, and the live setting brought forth the words with even more power.
One of the most captivating things about the band's music is the way it transforms - how it swells and then breaks, turning at once from delicate clarity to frantic urgency. On "Walk Around the Lake," that dichotomy allows the band to be both a confessional acoustic outfit and a vengeful orchestra. The songs bring forth a hypnotic power that allows them to work their way into your guts and fill you with their life and sentiments. They haunt you. And they're the kind of things that can move one to tears.
There was no need for set pieces or gimmicks but, aside from the drummer, band members frequently changed instruments. There were no breaks, and few words were spoken directly to the crowd. For more than an hour, this night was driven by the music.
Lost in the Trees takes its classical influences seriously, but that's not the say the band is straight-laced. Violinist Jenaivieve Varga and cellist Drew Anagnost are technically proficient, and it's fascinating to watch them battle it out on songs like "Time Taunts Me." The six members play off one another, smiling, dancing and letting themselves be completely engulfed by the music.
Meanwhile, Picker is not your typical frontman. He doesn't have Varga's gracefulness or the sweetness and connection to the audience that Nadeau has. But somehow, it's hard to take your eyes off of him. Eyes closed, he radiates a quiet strength and warm humility. After wiping his dripping face with a towel, someone in the audience begged for it and Picker obliged. "I'll sell it on eBay!" the man yelled. "No one's gonna want that," Picker said, smiling.
Picker also orchestrated the night's best moment when he led the band into the audience for a set-closing rendition of "All Alone in an Empty House." Unplugged, the vocals were clear while the violin was winding between the words, a tuba punctuated the lyrics and a lone drum kept the pulse. The music didn't need a stage, performance antics or amplification - it just simply was.
Neither Here Nor There
Walk Around the Lake
Time Haunts Me
A Room Where Your Paintings Hang
This Dead Bird Is Beautiful
All Alone In An Empty House