This can be said of Durham-based Megafaun: Even if their fan base is of modest size (rather like the crowd at their Saturday night Grey Eagle show), that fan pool is drawn from a certain music-listening elite. Ben Lovett was there. Matt Matt Schnable of Harvest Records was there. Chelsea Kouns of Bandwagon was there. Xpress music-writing intern extraordinaire Joseph Chapman was there.
This can also be said: Fourteen years into performing together in various projects, Megafaun still has a “look what we can do exuberance.” And that’s not just new addition bassist Nick Sanborn (who announced, at one point, “Hey, this is fun!”). It’s core members brother Brad and Phil Cook and drummer Joe Westerlund, who also look as if Christmas came early.
The band launched its set with “Real Slow,” the opening track from their just-released self-titled album, revealing a full, resonant, laid-back Americana sound. The next song, “Carolina Days” from last year’s EP Hertofore, got a piano rock treatment on stage with rangy Jerry Lee Lewis keys parts.
Many of the band’s offerings (“Get Right,” “The Longest Day” from Gather, Form & Fly) showcased the brothers Cook’s fine harmonies and their influences, from The Band to the indie-folk of Bon Iver (the Cooks and Westerlund used to perform with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon). Older songs are seeped in string sounds and folk melodies; the newest album finds its balance between country-tinged Americana and the lyrical sensibilities of indie rock. “Kaufman’s Ballad” was all thick kick drum in the beginning, opening to a full band sound with Fleetwood Mac and CSN tones.
The departures were Westerlund’s contributions. Newcomers to Megafaun might be confused by the percussionist’s Christian-flavored songs, like gospel-tinged “His Robe” and “You Are The Light.” But the audience received those offerings with the same enthusiasm as for the band’s encore in which Westerlund danced at the edge of the stage before tearing open his pearl-snap shirt.
In an evening full of great moments, the band left on a high note with final encore of “Worried Mind” (watch a video, below, of the band playing that same song at the Grey Eagle in April of this year), performed acoustic, off-stage and surrounded by fans. Halli Anderson of opening band River Whyless joined in on fiddle. As encores go — and they tend to go well — this was a triumph.