By Andi Hubbell
Indie band The Forest Wall offered a refreshing change of pace to the hyped-up musical acts that the University of Maryland customarily hosts when they performed in the Nyumburu Cultural Center on Nov. 16. With their down-to-earth stage presence and serene, understated sound, the Philly-based act produced a compelling alternative concert experience that could have easily entertained a much-bigger venue.
The opening act, Andrew Bramhall and Samuel Whalen of the Silent Old Mtns., took the stage around 7:45 p.m., intriguing the sparse audience with an energetic acoustic set. Electric candles lined the front of the dimly lit, cramped presentation room where the concert was held, setting a quaint, intimate atmosphere for the performance.
Silent Old Mtns.’ music boasted soulful country tones that comically juxtaposed their pop punk-esque wardrobe. Whalen, donned in tight skinny jeans, passionately picked at his banjo while Bramhall showcased his wide vocal range and fervently strummed his guitar. Though the other three members of Silent Old Mtns. were absent from the performance, Bramhall and Whalen managed to fill the room with their passionate country-inspired sound, engaging the audience with loud, high-energy numbers like “That Telescope Find.”
Whalen further contributed to the band’s old time country feel by reciting original lines of poetry during the last song of the set. The banjo player’s deep voice echoed with a spiritual quality reminiscent of an impassioned preacher’s voice during a sermon.
The brother-sister duo The Forest Wall, who launched into their set around 8:30 p.m., offered a more low-key but distinctive live performance. Vocalist Amanda Salazar swayed back and forth as she carried elegant, serene vocals complemented by brother Derek Salazar’s haunting guitar playing.
Although Amanda’s voice remained sticky-sweet throughout most of the set, she demonstrated her vocal versatility in “In the Pines,” when her voice shifted to dark and deep. Derek’s husky, rough vocals also contributed an edgier quality to Amanda’s sweet voice in collaborative numbers like “Spanish Skies.”
The Forest Wall, like Silent Old Mtns., drew elements from other art forms to create a unique live show. While the duo performed with their touring drummer, an artist stood behind a white sheet of paper that was strung across two boards in the front of the room and painted with black ink. The work, which depicted indistinct black figures wearing straw hats and gazing up at towering giants in the skies, further emphasized the show’s rustic feel.
Although the audience was remarkably small (six people attended) both bands repeatedly expressed their gratitude for the crowd’s presence, which encouraged audience members to introduce themselves after the show. The Forest Wall gave everyone a copy of their self-titled five-track EP free of charge.
After the hyped-up Mac Miller concert in September, the Forest Wall and Silent Old Mtns. provided a relaxed concert experience that was deserving of a larger audience. Hopefully the host of the show, Muzik Discovery radio show, a music blog and radio show on WMUC that freshman Casey Whitman runs, will be given larger, more publicized venues for future events to ensure that students don’t miss out on noteworthy acts like the Forest Wall and Silent Old Mtns.