The first time I saw Bodies of Water perform, I wasn’t at all familiar with the young band. So I found it odd that one guy, standing right up close to the stage, was throwing fist pumps in the air and singing along to every song. “There’s one in every crowd,” I thought. But now that I’ve seen Bodies of Water a few more times and have come to really enjoy the band’s ace A Certain Feeling album, I realize that guy wasn’t just a lone kook: On July 17 at the Echo in Los Angeles, the band played a record-release party that had more than one member of the crowd swooning.
After a buzzing, electric set by Seasons, the Henry Clay People played a country-rock set that went a bit overboard, in more ways than one. The band played far too long; its time on stage was equal to Bodies of Water’s. The band members seemed much more enamored with their onstage antics than the crowd was. Attempts to initiate crowd interaction largely failed, until the last song, which had the musicians leading the audience in executing “rock ‘n’ roll jumps.”
The Henry Clay People had a bunch of fans join them on stage for that last song, and the stage remained packed when Bodies of Water began to play. The group’s four core members were augmented by a three-part horn section, second percussionist Jamie Pitts (training to take over for drummer Jessie Conklin, who was playing her last show with Bodies of Water), and new guitarist Julie Carpenter. The band opened with “Even in a Cave,” one of A Certain Feeling’s slow-burning rave-ups. The song didn’t quite deliver the epic release live that it does on record. Things remained big and brassy with “Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey,” the first track on the new album. It also lacked the same punch in its dynamic changes.
Bodies of Water started to win over the masses more with simpler material. “Water Here,” which sounds like cruise ship music for a sail up a river of milk and honey (members of Bodies of Water make no bones about their Christianity), got hipsters’ hips moving. “I Guess I’ll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess,” a standout from the band’s debut album, Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink, initiated a crowd clap-along. After the horn section exited the stage, Bodies of Water locked into its drone rock groove with “Under the Pines” and “Darling, Be Here.”
The brass was back for the last two songs, both culled from Ears. After “These Are the Eyes,” Bodies of Water copped a quick break before coming back for encore “It Moves.” Like many of the band’s songs, it features plenty of wordless, chanting vocals, which the crowd chimed in on.
Although the band’s cultlike aura was toned down a bit since lead singer Meredith Metcalf (soldiering on despite injuring her foot the day before) was in a T-shirt and jeans instead of her usual flowing robe, the night still had the feel of a religious experience. By the end, we were all like that one fan, giving over completely to Bodies of Water’s lush, enveloping sound.