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  • Andrey Psyche

First major milestone for Dravus House

February 2nd, 2019: Fremont Abbey

Elena Loper laughs off her guitar dying in the middle of a song. // Photo by Doug Indrick

If you have kids, you know that they aren’t going to be young forever. You try to absorb every moment you can as your kids navigate the treacherous waters of life, making their own ideas about the world and their role in it. That’s why you know how special it is when they say their first word, take their first steps, go to their first day of school, fall in love for the very first time, or get their heart broken. The first time is always the most honest and pure expression you can ever get from an experience: there are no attachments or expectations. That’s why, on February 2nd, the first ever Dravus House album release show was so special for everyone at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center. But, before Elena Loper and Cooper Stoulil had their opportunity to experience their unique moment, we had the pleasure to get lost in the music by Gabriel DeLayne and Lizzy Gundersen.

DeLayne is a folk singer-songwriter who spends a lot of time playing the piano. From the moment his fingers began caressing the ivory keys, the audience fell silent, and the cathedral-like space was filled with the resonance of surviving overtones that kept springing out of DeLayne’s fingertips. If you closed your eyes, you could easily see Mozart or Bach sitting behind the piano, playing an intricate piece of music for an adoring audience. The melodies were heavenly, and DeLayne accompanied it with some southern-folk style vocals that gave the sound some very heavy contrast. Similar vocal styles can be heard with a banjo or acoustic guitars all around, but, when paired with an immaculate piano performance, a distinguishing style is born.

The piano, vocals, and lyrics were all amazing, but, often, the vocal melody and piano melody matched each other exactly. There were a few moments where the vocals would stray, usually at the terminal ending of some verses, and it felt like a braingasm. But, more often, the combination of the same melodic line felt redundant. The first three or four songs also sounded very similar to one another in tempo and key, and, thus, they ended up slurring together. “Golden Child,” though, broke up the monotony by introducing a slower melody in a minor key.

After a very short intermission, Lizzy Gundersen and an acoustic guitar took the stage. Gundersen played four songs before letting Dravus House take the spotlight, but, before she did, she made sure to melt our hearts and spark a fire in our bellies.

Gundersen had the audience in the palm of her hand with each song. With a vocal range that went on forever, she delivered songs of love and heartbreak. She ended on a “low note,” as she put it, by sharing a song that centered on stories of abused women. What made her performance impossible to ignore, though, was the sound of her guitar. Gundersen didn’t use any crazy chords or any special tuning: her playing was very simple. Most songs were three or four chords, with a small bridge here and there. What made it louder than anything was how quietly she could strum. At times, you could only hear a ghostly presence of her finger just barely getting in the proximity of a string. At other times, she would let every string ring out across the entire hall. Her dynamic range would embrace you with a touch as soft as cotton and cut you open with a pain as sharp as a blade. It was wonderful.

The time everyone was waiting for came very quickly as Dravus House made a home for themselves on stage. A couple of acoustic guitars, a couple of electric guitars, two mics, and a room of adoring fans, friends, family, musicians, and coworkers welcomed the duo with open arms.

Before jumping into the set, Loper shared a few moments of gratitude and established a warm and loving environment for everyone there. With charming smiles as bright as sunshine, Loper and Stoulil shared a look of joy and then dove right into their performance. Loper began finger-picking a few chords while Stoulil jumped in with some vibrant embellishments on his electric guitar. The contrast between a cool and grounded acoustic guitar being plucked away in a structured, repeating pattern and a brightly colored electric guitar soaring high above the clouds, leaving a gentle echo in its wake, created a kind and harmonious relationship that left just enough space for Loper’s vocals to find themselves floating freely in between the gaps, like a whisper being carried by the currents of the wind. If you looked carefully, you could catch Loper glancing over the crowd as she sang into the microphone. At that moment, you could see the light bouncing off her eyes just so, as if the whole universe was hiding inside.

After a few mesmerizing songs from the album, Stoulil left the stage for a moment to make room for DeLayne to accompany Loper on “Oak Moss.” After a few moments of struggling to change guitars and get situated and a helpful audience member offering his chair to Loper, we were back on track, getting soothed by gentle melodies from the stage.

As Loper and DeLayne were getting into the song, Loper lingered at the end of a verse, singing, “it’s not a feeling you just get over; it’s breathing quite rapidly, losing composure.” As the line finished, the guitar lost all of its composure and began producing a deafening buzz in the speakers: the batteries had died, and it could not have been more perfect. Loper and DeLayne stopped, took the jack out, and, after a few laughs, performed the remainder of the song unplugged. The crowd loved every second of it, and, in the end, it made the night even more exciting and eventful.

Dravus House closed with the first song of their album, “Bang.” After exiting the stage, Loper, Stoulil, and DeLayne came back to perform a cover song for their encore, and, just like that, it was over — another “first” was crossed off the list. Luckily, Loper and Stoulil were surrounded by all of their loved ones that will remember and cherish that moment for the rest of their lives.

Originally written for Dan's Tunes Seattle


© 2018 Andrey Psyche

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