When a man in a scuba mask and fanny pack asks you to clap along, and a cello player dons a wolf hat before singing into the microphone, you know that it’s going to be an interesting night of music. The Michigan trio, Breathe Owl Breathe, combines whimsical storytelling with quietly haunting harmonies.
Opening up for Yann Tiersen at The Music Box last Friday, Breathe Owl Breathe quickly charmed the crowd. Lead singer, Micah Middaugh prefaced their song, “Dragon,” with the explanation that the dragon and a princess were penpals but the princess had no idea she was writing to a dragon due to the dragon’s good penmanship. They were in love but living in complicated times. Middaugh urged the crowd to clap along to the song off their latest album, Magic Central (Hometapes 2010).
Andrea Moreno-Beals provided serene backing vocals, cello, banjo, and tambourine while Trevor Hobbs played steadily on drums. Middaugh rounded off their sound with acoustic guitar and an assortment of toy instruments. As Middaugh sang, he often acted out the lyrics in an endearing fashion.
There’s an innate comfort and childlike vulnerability in Breathe Owl Breathe’s music that made smiles spread across faces of audience members. Songs like, “Swimming,” offered playful lyrics such as, “You can splash me if you want to but not in the eye.” The soft percussion of maracas in “Across the Loch,” complemented the gentle refrain of, “I was afraid of losing you.” Their music definitely presented hints of melancholy; “Own Stunts,” in particular, summoned a darker mood that sounded like a cross between Andrew Bird and Bon Iver.
The band cracked jokes between songs (I’ve learned that werewolves just want to kick it and perhaps attend Yann Tiersen shows) and at one point Moreno-Beals conducted the crowd with her drumsticks. Breathe Owl Breathe played a light hearted set and they finished with “Board Games.”
Photos and review by Wei Shi for Grimy Goods