Seryn at Duling Hall, Jackson, Mississippi, April 28, 2013
My wife leaned over and said, “This is like Mumford & Sons meets The Swell Season.” True that, plus something else. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting when I walked in to Duling Hall on Sunday night to see Seryn, but what I saw was not it.
To start with, there’s no telling who might be playing what at any given time – they all are multi-instrumentalists. At some point, for example, everyone seemed to have a bow in their hand, getting sounds out of a violin, guitar and bass. They passed around a drum on different songs. Of course, the drummer plays the banjo. Why not? And then there’s the ukelele. The ukelele is key. This is the one thing I knew going in, and it misled me. This is not a ukelele band, despite what I just wrote. Either trust me on this or go see them and see what I mean.
Seryn’s music often starts with atmospherics, then lifts up, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, rising to a soaring crescendo of chorus, then falls, becoming subtle, and then it lifts up again. The songs are not always clearly delineated, to the point that sometimes a nod is given so that the audience members know it is okay to applaud. And applaud they did, because the show took your breath away.
This young group takes it all very seriously. They listen to each other, acknowledging the vocal parts and the instrumental parts. They play like they really mean it, showing an amazing respect for the music, and for each other. This is not a show where you chat with friend all the way through or check your iPhone for baseball scores. You’re drawn in, as if you were a participant rather than an audience member, as if the rhythm of the evening somehow depended on you, too. This is powerful stuff, not for the casual listener.
Here are a couple of videos of Seryn playing live, to give you an idea about their music. First is a moving performance of We Will All Be Changed, and the second is a cover of The Chain, which they did at the Duling Hall show as an encore. Enjoy.
Mando Lines listens to music a lot and writes about it a little. A lot of the little he writes is on Twitter @mando_lines.