Darlingside With Caitlin Canty in Seattle
Sunday night brought the wildest winds Seattle had seen in nearly two decades, with roof shingles and tree branches soaring through the air like so many leaves. Performing solo at The Triple Door before the quartet Darlingside was to take the stage, Caitlin Canty observed, “I saw somebody walking down the street and his face was actually jiggling.”
Canty, a pure-voiced folkie who resembles a young Natalie Merchant, attended Williams College with the four members in Darlingside and once sang in a wedding band with them. Late in Darlingside’s set, the band brought her out for a goose-bumped cover of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” which she sang at cello and guitar player Harrison Paseltiner’s wedding. He warned the crowd that he might well up during the tune, but instead it was Canty who seemed on the brink of joyful tears, so enveloped was she by the warmth of her comrades’ harmonies.
Darlingside was the recent beneficiary of a short profile in The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” section, which is as deft a selling point as can be foisted upon Seattle, a town smiling smugly on the left face of America’s intellectual mountain. The Triple Door—easily the best sit-down venue in the city—is a supper club which enhances such decorum, its dinnerware tinkling where obnoxious chatter might otherwise fill a room.
Early in the show, Paseltiner mentioned how he’d ripped the only pair of pants he’d brought on tour while hiking on Mt. Hood. Rather than purchase new ones, he had bassist Dave Senft sew them with a spool of black thread. The travails of these trousers (brotherhood of the traveling pants, perhaps?) became a running gag, making for a snappy pace as the quartet—huddled around a lone microphone throughout, save for an a cappella version of “Open Door”—scrambled around the stage, fetching any of 10 instruments and occasionally munching on some chocolates they’d been gifted by a fan.
Occupying a middle ground between Simon & Garfunkel and The Polyphonic Spree, the members of Darlingside try to sound as alike one another as possible, so that when they harmonize, it more closely resembles a multi-tracked recording than four distinct voices. Their strength lies in their restraint; their decision to stay in unison for as long as they do only makes the splintering off into harmony more profound.
While newer tracks like “The God of Loss,” “Go Back,” “Good for You,” “The Ancestor,” and “Clay & Cast Iron” all benefitted from this tendency, nowhere was it employed more effectively than on the slow-burning “My Love,” enhanced by the brilliant lyric, “Now I spend my days alone and stay up all night, with a picture of whiskey to my left, a bottle of you to my right.”