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GURNETT: Wild Rivers first visit to Buffalo is 'dazzling, intimate night'

Wild Rivers’ star has risen quickly in the last couple years. Formed by vocalist/bassist Devan Glover and guitarist/vocalist Khalid Yassein in 2012, by 2015 they were named a Top 10 New Artist by CBC’s Searchlight contest. In 2016, they released their self-titled debut album, and since then, they have accrued over 20 million Spotify listens. They stopped by Mohawk Place on Saturday, March 24th for the final date on their winter tour.

Local indie rock band Mutual Friends opened. Mutual Friends fuses indie rock, new wave and dance sensibilities, creating a moody and atmospheric vibe while still being upbeat and danceable. Vocalist/keyboardist Kevin Scoma, a spitting image of Elvis Costello, led the group with charisma and energy. The rhythm section had an impressive sound thanks to Brett Perla’s thick, chunky bass tone and the enormous boom of drummer Jeff Trehy’s minimalist drum kit. Trehy only had a snare, kick drum and a single tom (in addition to his cymbals), but every drum felt huge and his pulse drove the entire band. Meanwhile, guitarist Bryan Johnson’s jangly, sometimes minimalistic guitarwork set the tone. Mutual Friends are a band to watch. They could have great things ahead of themselves.

The crowd was practically frothing by the time Wild Rivers got onstage. This was Wild Rivers’ first performance in Buffalo, and while they thanked the many friends who came out, the crowd seemed much larger than just that. Vocalist/bassist Devan Glover’s strong alto and stage presence stood out first.  His voice slid together perfectly with guitarist/vocalist Khaalid Yassein’s harmonies. They seemed made to perform with each other. Yassein’s earthy, folky, slightly country tenor is relaxing on its own, and the way he worked with Glover’s strong voice, reminiscent of Canadian Of Monsters and Men, resulted in a sound that made it clear why the band has garnered so much attention on Spotify. Highlights from the set included their biggest hits, “Wandering Child” and “Already Gone.”

All wasn’t perfect with Wild Rivers’ set. Glover played for about half of the set, while guitarist Andrew Oliver filled in on another song or two, but the rest of the set lacked any bass. The bass-less songs sounded weak and empty, with the contrast especially noticeable the first song after a switch. The pacing of the set was also off. The band started out playing some upbeat material and then moved on to their slower, sadder fare. Mixing things up a little would have kept it from feeling as though they gutted the set in exchange for big openings and endings.

That said, these are relatively small complaints, and the crowd had a great time. Wild Rivers closed their set by walking into the center of the crowd and performing a “Last Round” with just an acoustic guitar, a little percussion and beautiful four-part harmonies. It was a dazzling, intimate night that the crowd won’t soon forget; I know I won’t.

Ryan Gurnett has a B.S. in Music Industry from The College of St Rose. He has worked as a studio engineer, live sound engineer, producer and sound editor and has been a musician for 25 years. He is currently the bassist for The Lady, or the Tiger?. Email him at SirWilliamIdol@gmail.com or find him on Twitter @SirWilliamIdol.

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