After an afternoon that reached 90 degrees, the air was muggy inside SPACE Gallery last Wednesday night. Lucky for the crowd of just over 50, large fans kept things comfortable for La Strada's second visit to the venue in just three months.
Opening the show was local act Jakob Battick & Friends, who boast the current featured album on local music blog, HillyTown.com. The band's dark, melodic sound punctuated by Battick's anguished screams and stomping added to the air's heavy feeling, casting an almost mournful energy over the room. Included in the mix was Jared Fairfield's accordion, a preview, it turned out, to La Strada's upcoming set.
Brooklyn-based headliner La Strada, comprising Daniel Baer, James Craft, Isaiah Gage, Brady Miller, Ted Lattis, and Devon Press, came close to filling SPACE's entire stage with their combination of guitar, bass, drums, violin, cello, and again, accordion. Having just finished a quick tour of Canada, Craft told the crowd, "it felt great to cross the border into Maine."
Though accordion was prominently featured in their performance, La Strada's dreamlike and sometimes whimsical sound contrasted with Battick's opening set in every other aspect. With four of the six musicians adding vocal harmonies, the band's lighter mood was also enhanced with xylophone, finger-picking, and shakers.
Craft, the band's principal vocalist and songwriter, sang with an easy going lilt reminiscent of more famous white boys on guitar. Luckily, what he lacked in yuppie pretense, he made up for in originality. Fans of Arcade Fire would surely enjoy the harmonized vocals and instrumental crescendos of La Strada, but the side of quirkiness was appreciated by everyone in the crowd at SPACE.
The band often ran from one song directly into the next, leaving audience members never quite sure when to clap, but definitely eager to applaud. With a successful second show under their belts, and a rave review of Portland's food shared during one microphone break, it seemed promising that La Strada might again grace SPACE.