One of my highlights of 2022 was covering the NYC debut of caroline at Le Poisson Rouge for FTA (coverage here). This past weekend, those of us lucky enough to be in attendance were treated to another great show just six months later. Bringing their unique mix of sounds and styles, the show featured tracks from their brilliant 2022 debut album, the self-titled caroline (Memorials of Distinction).
Like their performance in the round at LPR, caroline was once again centered in the room in a circle that allowed the English octet to really play off each other. Not that they need to as founding members Casper Hughes, Jasper Llewellyn, Mike O’Malley, Oliver Hamilton, Magdalena McLean, Freddy Wordsworth, Alex McKenzie and Hugh Aynsley have been perfecting their style ever since their 2017 incarnation.
caroline at National Sawdust
While their sound at times can seem improvisational, it stays very close to the recorded versions of the songs found on their debut. But this night would also feature a second circle of chairs that had all of us guessing what was planned. Towards the end of their set, caroline welcomed a number of guest guitarists to fill the chairs in that second circle for what would in fact be a completely improvised performance. The night’s guests were to join Llewellyn in that empty circle and play along to a song they had never heard, never played.
Among the random selection of guitarists was Gus Green from Geese who seemed as intrigued as the other 10 or 11 musicians who joined him. Like any caroline song, it was a slow cooker that started with some simple acoustic guitar lines that grew over time and was accompanied by vocals that also flourished as the song went on. Before it was over, the rest of caroline was performing from their own circle and I wound up between both with a combined 20 or so musicians all playing along to this improvised on the spot song and it was truly magical.
Opening the evening was vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Wendy Eisenberg who was accompanied by drummer, Ryan Sawyer. Like caroline, Eisenberg’s music incorporates a more experimental style where her guitar at times is used to unusual effect and creates a unique sound to her less traditional brand of avant folk rock found on albums like 2021’s Bent Ring. It was the perfect pairing between both hers and caroline’s approach to creating some of the most innovative music out there today.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kevin McGann)
WENDY EISENBERG & RYAN SAWYER