No, they’re not actually a family – it’s just a clever name – and the surname of the lone girl in the group, Kelsey Kopecky.
Any other questions before we get going?
These guys have been riding a tide of under-the-radar goodwill for a couple years now, since they were picked to play 2011’s Bonnaroo festival in their native Tennessee. Only recently has the folk-rock genre reemerged as a major commercial success, with acts like The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, and the Head and the Heart packing venues and selling bunches of stuff to people.
“Why not us?” the Kopecky Family Band asked?
Unfortunately, they found themselves playing one of those gigs where, as a band, you really gotta want it. And it’s tough.
Picture this: the Bottleneck, a little dirtier than usual, Monday night, MLK Day, about 15 degrees outside, maybe 50 people in the whole bar and 20 of those are playing pool and talking loudly while KFB plays tender songs with boy-girl harmonies.
I hope next time I see these guys, everything is different.
They’ve got a good feel, some solid chemistry and harmonies between Kelsey and Gabe Simon. That was apparent a song or two into the set during Birds, one of their catchy gems off the band’s 2010 album, The Disaster.
Simon started the song off with an off-kilter whistle riff before Kopecky floated her vocals in. And after a few bars the entire band fleshes everything out with pulsing chords made to sound even bigger by the inclusion of the cello, xylophone and trombone. That and a poppy back-beat make this tune one of those songs that will run around in your head long after you wish you could move on.
“Maybe I lied, I liked it/ Maybe I lied…”
There were few pleasantries as the band moved through their set in a workmanlike fashion, with several instances of “We really appreciate you guys coming out in the cold,” but little other banter. When a song ended there was applause, then silence – except for the pool players in the back of course.
God and Me featured dueling trombones to start the song, morphing into a buzzy anthem singalong thanks to bass player Corey Oxendine‘s imaginative bass lines and throwback fuzz tones.
Oxendine was actually one of the highlights for me, and that’s saying something really. I mean, he’s the bass player, people! He’s supposed to be in the background and let the two attractive front-persons do their thing. However his riffs are way more interesting than most regurgitated indie-pop you hear lately.
Which brings me to another point – KFB is really not all that much like those other folk-pop bands mentioned above – at least not live.
They’re much more rock and chamber pop (I hate the term “chamber pop,” but it actually fits here). Though they do at times take it down a notch and do just the dueling vocals with an acoustic guitar, and they do it very effectively.
As was the case on the brooding Animal, which builds slowly into a round of vocal harmonies before the band drops out leaving nothing but Kopecky’s voice to carry the song home.
The last bit of the rather short, hour long set included several songs off their recent release, Kids Raising Kids, which seemed to be a little more down-tempo and introspective than some of their previous efforts. Nonetheless, the craftsmanship is still there.
Which helps when you’re a working band and you’ve got to get through a gig like this one.
I’m betting that the Kopecky Family Band continues its slow and steady ascent, with fewer and fewer of these character-building shows in their future.