Story by Matt Wickstrom
Photos by Sarah Cahill
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Louisville-based alt-folk outfit Bendigo Fletcher made their highly-anticipated return to Lexington on Friday, performing to a devout and attentive crowd at The Burl in their first show in town since dropping their Memory Fever EP the week prior.
The new songs helped to lead the band’s standout performance, which began with frontman Ryan Anderson’s calming croon during the tripped-out dreamscapes of “Chocolate Garden” before later delving into the thrashy jams of “Jackrabbit” and an acoustic break down for “Solar Eclipse 08/21/17.”
The warm, fantasy-like vibes continued with “No Smoke” from Bendigo’s Terminally Wild EP from earlier this year, which conjures up hallucinogenic Leonard Cohen vibes in addition to “Soul Factory” and “Sleeping Pad,” each of which feature a spaced out folk symphony and delicate melodies comparable to the sounds of Fruit Bats and Hiss Golden Messenger.
While Anderson’s outgoing persona radiates and garners much of Bendigo Fletcher’s buzz, also noticeable is how tight the entire group – rounded out by guitarist Andrew Shupert, bassist Conner Powell, drummer Chris Weiss and keyboardist Evan Wagner – has grown musically following a strenuous summer of shows that included appearances at Forecastle Festival, opening for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nights Sweats in East Moline, Ill; and a string of dates opening for Katie Toupin (formerly of Houndmouth).
Prior to Bendigo taking the stage local songbird Abby Hamilton kicked the evening off with a soft mix of old-time honky tonk with subtle pop undertones. Hamilton began her set with a freshly penned tune that went something like “whatever helps you sleep at night” along with another by herself before welcoming her backing band for the evening – Carson Childers on bass, Tripp Bratton on drums and Zach Lafferty on lead guitar – to the stage.
Hamilton later dipped into performances of originals “50’s Dream,” Flowers” and “Change Things,” among others, pairing a southern charm with empowering lyrics similar to fellow Kentuckians Senora May and Loretta Lynn. Keep an eye out for new music soon from Hamilton, which she’s been recording throughout the year in town with Duane Lundy at the Lexington Recording Company, formerly Shangri-la Productions.
Sandwiched between Hamilton and Bendigo Fletcher were Cincinnati troupe Sylmar, a band blending together dream rock with hints of punk, classical and psychedelia that regrettably missed on prior stops in Lexington. I quickly discovered the past err in my ways, with frontman Brian McCullough beginning the set with reckless abandon from within the crowd, engaging with people as he wove through songs with a lyrical prowess ranging from subtle and melodic to raw outbursts of unrelenting screeching, working up a sweat as he moved from the crowd to the stage, occasionally taking detours to climb atop speakers and bounce about, bringing the energy inside the Burl to a boiling point.
One of the many high points of Sylmar’s set came near the end during a rendition of fan-favorite “Honey,” a cut with a glimmering, low-key sophistication that lures listeners in with an intoxicating persuasive allure before breaking down into a massive jam that brought the crowd to a fever pitch.