The Clogs, with Padma Newsome on vocals, violins, harmonium, keyboard and a few other instruments, and Bryce Dessner (The National) on guitars and other strummed strings, entranced the crowd at The Bell House in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.
A very pregnant Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) added her own beautiful, haunting vocal vocal touches. Other permanent members of Clogs are Rachael Eliott on bassoon and Thomas Kozumplik on percussion. The Bell House performance was supplemented by a second percussionist and horn section at times.
But the real surprise of the evening was greeted by an audible gasp when Sufjan Stevens appeared onstage to play banjo on one song.
Clogs music is a bit difficult to pigeonhole. It’s definitely not rock, but it’s not classical. It bridges the two and winds up being unique. At one point Bryce made reference to a review that called one of the group’s songs “knotty.” Shara promised to try to sing in as knotty a fashion as possible.
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I wouldn’t use knotty to describe most of what Clogs does. But you sure can’t dance to it!
Julianna Barwick opened the evening to a very sparse crowed with her intriguing, deliberately unintelligible live-looped vocals. Her set was much more interesting than the last time I heard her. It was a pleasant surprise.
Ólöf Arnalds followed Julianna. She has a lovely voice and a charming stage presence. But the Icelandic music veteran’s performance felt more like a rehearsal, and she appeared rather uncertain of herself — in part because her ability to speak English is quite weak.