Wilderness returned to SPACE Gallery on Wednesday, after two years of skipping town on us. Perhaps they were as surprised as I was at the skimpy turn-out. Their previous arrival drew a packed house, equivalent to Black Mountain’s crowd a few weeks ago. But on Wednesday night only a few showed up to see one of the independent music scene’s most interesting post-rock acts. With limited appearances by touring bands, you'd think more Portlanders would have jumped at the chance.
Micah Blue Smaldone started the evening. A deep and somber tone blanketed the room as he took the stage, and a sense of timelessness set in as he told us his stories with song. In need of no theatrical gimmicks, he is one of the rare songwriters whose music speaks for him. When Micah got off the stage a lot of people went home, though, which brings me back to my main concern about the weak Wilderness support.
Wilderness played excellently. The tom-driven drums provided the rhythm of the ambient yet angular guitars, layered over intelligent walking bass-lines. James Johnson’s atonal howls sounded like battle calls for a romantically disenchanted youth brigade. Aside from his on-stage tai chi, and the fact that the band dressed like they were sponsored by Patagonia, I could not understand why Portland’s indie-rock troupe sat this one out.