At some point between when I saw Strand of Oaks last year and when I saw them again last night, Timothy Showalter graduated into the realm of rock star. Maybe it was the venue; Union Transfer is a much bigger stage than the intimate Johnny Brenda's. Maybe it's the joy of playing new material. Or maybe Showalter had it in him all along and only decided to reveal it now. But either way, Philadelphia saw a different Strand of Oaks on Monday night.
Showalter, who often performs solo, was joined on stage by drummer Chris Ward (Pattern is Movement). My initial impression of the new record, Dark Shores, was that it was more "pensive" than Strand of Oaks' previous record, Pope Killdragon. But together, Showalter and Ward transformed these dark folk songs into a fun, lively rock show. Showalter was prancing and headbanging while Ward ripped out titanic solos, such as on "Diamond Drill" and the set-closing "Bonfire."
For a guy who wrote "Everyone I know will either move away or die / It's a lonely life" ("Diamond Drill"), it was gratifying to see him having fun on stage last night. Showalter is just so talented that he excels at whatever he does. I look forward to next year, when he undoubtedly reinvents himself for a killer hip-hop show.