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SubRosa Live at The Golden Bull in Oakland, CA

Words and photos by  Bobby Cochran
Words and photos by Bobby Cochran

The Golden Bull, a gathering place for metalheads and their ilk in downtown Oakland, might initially seem like an unfitting place to see a band like experimental-doom-folk quintet SubRosa. The Salt Lake City band make music that’s full of space, soft melody and nearly whispered vocals, contrasted with passages of gargantuan volume and potent sludge. One might expect this band to perform to its fullest potential on a large stage in some 19th century theater, or the floor of some ancient, abandoned church (both of which would be kinda awesome, actually). Still, the intimate club proved to be a fantastic venue, and not only did the space feel cozy and familial, but it seemed to embrace the band in a ring of friends and fans who were right there the whole time, taking the musical voyage together.

Opening the evening was another folk/doom ensemble with roots that go way back in the Bay Area dark music scene: Worm Ourobouros, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Jessica Way and bassist/vocalist Lorraine Rath, both of whom have been involved with Amber Asylum, with drummer Aesop Dekker, formerly of Agalloch and Ludicra. With haunting harmonies, dreamlike ambience and periodic dissonance and intensity, The trio held the audience in rapt attention, many of whom stood motionless with eyes closed, taking in the dark beauty as it washed over them.

SubRosa’s songs can be epic in length, and in fact, four songs filled out their hour-plus set. But each song is a journey unto itself, not unlike an opera, where a story has to be told, and must be done with all the dynamics and complexity any good story requires.

SubRosa blend the unrelenting power of doom/sludge with a folk sensibility to great effect on each of their three most recent albums, and their live performance brings greater dimension to this format without losing any of the power or intricacy of the recordings. Singer/songwriter Rebecca Vernon’s understated vocals and simple guitar with the dual violins of Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack create haunting, subtle and evocative moments strategically placed between mountains of volume and melody. Drummer Andy Patterson and bassist Levi Hanna offer commanding support.

This band looks and sounds like it’s been playing together for a long time, and knows itself as a musical unit in a way that’s unmistakable and powerful. the intimate venue gave the audience an opportunity to commune with this power up close. When SubRosa ended the audience was all right there with them, together.

-Bobby Cochran

Worm Ouroboros

SubRosa

SubRosa is still on tour and will play the following dates.

Thursday Nov. 17 – Vancouver BC @ Cobalt
Friday Nov. 18 – Seattle WA @ Highline
Saturday Nov. 19 – Boise ID @ Neurolux
Saturday Dec. 10 – Denver CO @ Denver Black Sky Fest

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