A sparse crowd filled Der Rathskeller Friday evening to see Los Angeles-based band Grizfolk. I sat two tables away from the band during the opening act. Their proximity made me a little nervous, but not so much that I didn’t appreciate the opening act: University of Wisconsin junior, Jake Padorr, who produced comfortable vocals, melding soft beat-boxing to lyrics.
When Grizfolk took the stage, it became clear that their performing style is much better than their recorded material. They have released only a four-song EP, From the Spark. Expanding on those melodies and sharing some currently unreleased songs, Grizfolk delivered an epic yet easygoing sound. Their soulful tunes combined electronic and Americana into a genre they call “folktronic.”
The five-piece band opened with a song from their EP titled “Waiting For You.” It was tinged with sadness but mostly full of adoration for a lover, which was perfect to sing along to. Most audience members listened passively while some slouched back in chairs and others leaned forward intrigued but not fully engaged yet.
A song or two in, a middle-aged couple went up to the front and started swing dancing, which fit surprisingly well with Grizfolk’s lively folk-pop tunes. Those of us still sitting down smiled, though it wasn’t long before a few of us students were up front too, twirling and tapping our feet. Grizfolk transitioned into their most well-known song “The Struggle.” In talking to Last.fm, the band describes the meaning behind “The Struggle.”
It is about a youth who realizes “when he faces his problems head-on, he becomes a better person” and could also describe someone “trying to escape the wild and find his way into civilization.”
Grizfolk went beyond just matching the sound they recorded on From the Spark. Adam Roth’s vocals brought an original, wholehearted feel to each song. The other band members were similarly engaged, moving back and forth to the soaring melodies and earnest lyrics. Guitarist Fredrik Eriksson’s shoulder-length blonde hair formed a sort of veil over his face as he bent over his instrument.
The band’s commitment to involving the audience energized us. “We need you guys to help us out on this one!” they said before teaching us part of “Vagabonds.” It even inspired those who had never heard them before to approach the front and start dancing. Grizfolk interspersed From the Spark songs with some unreleased ones, including “The Barrens,” “Young and Restless,” “The Ripple,” “Cosmic Angel” and “Bounty on My Head.”
By the last song, “Hymnals,” a small crowd occupied the slim space between the stage and the restaurant tables. I attempted to sing over the loud electronic amplifying equipment.
After the show my group approached the band, having come up with a few questions.
“If you were a fungus, which color would you be?” my friend asked bassist Brendan Willing James.
“Neon blue,” he answered.
After we take a photo with the band, everyone exchanged hugs. With the band members’ laid-back and genuine “come talk to us after the show!” attitude, it was anything but awkward.
The band’s full-length album is in progress, but they don’t know when it’ll be released.
“We have to finish it first,” they said.
Grizfolk is currently on tour with Bastille and will be performing in Milwaukee Oct. 18.