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Robber Robber with Hello Shark and The Clearwater Swimmers

August 8 7:30 pm - 11:00 pm
| music

Oxbow Live: Robber Robber with Hello Shark and The Clearwater Swimmers

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| Robber Robber |

All movement – and consequently, a lot of art – is a product of tension and release. In 2017, when multi-instrumentalists Nina Cates and Zack James decided to begin writing songs together, it was an exercise to see whether they could collaborate and anyone would be interested in anything they came up with. Now, Robber Robber’s debut album, Wild Guess, feels more like an exercise in tension and release than an indie record. For all of its nods to its post-punk predecessors and the eclectic Burlington, VT music scene that fed into it, the album feels more like an attempt to translate imagery into sound, communicating all the shades of light and dark you could visualize – and it’s better for that reason.

Everything is driven by sheer curiosity and loose, if any, creative parameters, the band says. A person’s twenties is guaranteed to be a tumultuous time in their life anyway, regardless of who they are or what they do, but the members of Robber Robber found themselves in a world that’s maybe never been more chaotic or difficult to move through. It’s a chaos that’s evident in what they create, even if it’s only the obstacle they’re reacting to. In even their most polarizing musical moments, you get the sense that these are gut reactions being expressed, that truth is the grist of the overflow.

Recorded with Benny Yurco (Grace Potter) and Urian Hackney (The Armed, Rough Francis, Iggy Pop) at Little Jamaica Recordings in Burlington with band members Will Krulak and Carney Hemler in tow, Cates and James (who also co-produced the album) have honed the most fully-realized version of Robber Robber to date, capturing the tangible group dynamic they’ve cultivated on stage. Much of that stage presence hinges on those same principles – flow and strain, the transfer or withholding of energy – opening with a track like “Seven Houses” and watching the crowd lean forward to catch the moment where the barrage of instrumentation will let up. On Wild Guess, that song is preceded by the almost stilted, unsettling “Letter From the Other Side of the Operation,” making its full-on attack of an introductory verse even more impactful in its recorded form.

Elsewhere, that sense of release is playful, like with the more accessible, almost poppy relief of “Dial Tone.” That track in particular marks one of the few points where Cates’ vocals are clearly decipherable, letting a crack form in the towering barrier of sound the band spends much of the album’s runtime building up. Of course, something else like closer “Machine Wall” lives up to its name in fortifying that barrier again, grinding on in an emphatic, beautiful finishing statement – deeply felt even as it tries desperately to throw you off its back, appearing more human as it rolls to a halt.

And maybe that’s the key here: these are impressionistic sketches, mimicking the visual material the songwriting might pull information from. Take the back-and-forth ringing of the guitars in “Backup Plan,” eventually clouded by fuzzier layers that seem to war with each other in a test of endurance – this kind of gradually overwhelming choice relies so much on gut reaction, on adjusting your ear to understand when it suddenly jerks you sideways.

| Hello Shark |

Hello Shark is the Maine-based project of Linc Halloran. They have been playing in clubs, bars, homes, and basements across the United States since the band’s humble beginnings in Vermont in late 2006. HS has had a rotation of members over the years but the current lineup consists of founding member, singer-songwriter Linc Halloran, longtime drummer Alex Decato, and bass player Garrett Linck. Their musicianship is cohesive yet a minimal sound that pairs well with Halloran’s powerful and earnest vocal melodies.

| The Clearwater Swimmers |

The Clearwater Swimmers is the new artistic vehicle for Sumner Bright, a multi-instrumentalist hailing from Maine. Drawing comparisons to Neil Young’s “On The Beach” era, Acetone, and other folk rock moguls from the 90s and early 2000s (such as Jason Molina), The Clearwater Swimmers take the most-often acoustic works of Bright and shift them into wading, contemplative folk rock, playing homage to the many communities and influences that led to group’s beginning.

[$12 ADV/$15 DOS | Doors 730PM | Show 8PM]