It was my first time. I was nervous. I had never seen Low live. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about them until “What Part of Me” made it into rotation at a friend’s listening session. It was my first exposure to the band, but after hearing that song I listened end-to-end to their latest album, Ones and Sixes. I am now a bona fide fan.
I’ve learned a lot from musicians, and the music they play, over the years and what I quickly learned from Low is that there is no rushing them. The melodies and beats build and penetrate and drive; when one song comes to a close, the next starts from a similar starting point, but veers in new directions. Throughout, what Low always triumphs at is pulling you in.
As part of what seems to be a never-ending tour behind Ones and Sixes (they kick off a month-long run in Anchorage, Alaska on January 15), when we heard Low was headed to Seattle, we asked to crash their soundcheck so that we could grab some video of the band onstage.
So there I was, downtown at The Crocodile for a sort of pre-show set, and if there’s one way to hear a band for the first time, I’ve yet to find a better way.
“No Comprende” lurched from the blocks and the band was off. There is something about this song that makes you want to crawl on the floor and embrace the earth. It was a track I kept coming back to on Ones and Sixes, and there I was in a room with eight other people hearing it live for the first time.
What Low always triumphs at is pulling you in.
The group was effortless — Alan Sparhawk’s guitars and vocals weaving into Mimi Parker’s hypnotic pulse she laid down behind her stripped down kit, her vocal lines skating above, below, and around Alan’s melodies. Steve Garrington’s bass lines gently pressed the band forward, all building toward the inevitable breakdown, which we all knew was coming, but it still felt like a magical reveal. The band reached a new level by retreating, by creating more space and a deeper valley of sound and contour greeted us.
So how does a band follow up a fuzzed-out, droning journey into a slowly melting landscape? With Al Green, of course. My hands went straight up in the air after Mimi sang the first few lines of “Let’s Stay Together.” It was their song now. The phasing keyboard and loose guitar chords, the drum machine marching along and Mimi’s voice gliding through the phrases — it was all Low but now with this new shading and color.
Later in the night, the band took the stage to a full house. Songs from Ones and Sixes made up the majority of the set, and their delivery of the chilling sentiments that make up “What Part of Me” (“What part of me don’t you know?/What part of me don’t you own?”) and “The Innocents” blanketed the crowd with eerie stillness.
Throughout the set, Low delivered a chest of treasures from Ones and Sixes, along with a bevy of other songs in their storied catalog. It was the first time I had heard a lot of these songs, and I felt like I had snuck into a party, uninvited. But after being enveloped in Low’s sound, what I discovered at the end of the night was that I was supposed to be there all along.