Pearl and the Beard at Grey Eagle

You know how you can be watching a show and the openers are good? Maybe even really good. You’re drinking a beer, you’re tapping a foot, you’re feeling it. And then the headliner comes on and pretty much blows not only the openers but every band you’ve seen for the last month right out of the water.

Pearl and the Beard is that kind of band. Not that they mean to upstage anyone. Pearl and the Beard is nothing if not fun and nice. (You can read a lot of the fun and nice things that they say here.) But they’re also the kind of trio that’s so creative and so skilled that they can fill a room with a full band sound while simultaneously making an entire crowd fall madly, hopelessly in love with them.

PATB took the stage (“or stah-zhay, as we call it in the biz”) at the Grey Eagle on Friday, announcing that they’d be playing a full set of Joanna Newsom covers. That didn’t happen. Instead, the evening included older songs (the delicate, wistful “Twice Today” from God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson) and the newer “James,” whose harmonies recall Crosby Stills and Nash in the best way. Songs ranged from tender to raucous; most danceable, many edging up against orchestral. Folky but sophisticated, well-traveled but crisply modern.

The setup is deceptively simple: Jeremy Styles on acoustic guitar, Jocelyn Makenzie on floor tom and Emily Hope Price on cello. But it’s not so much that they play their instruments; they maneuver and finesse, curving sounds and voices to fit in complex arrangements. They sing in harmonies and in rounds. The cello weeps and swoons, the drum marches and struts. PATB crafts layers, molds story lines, plucks at emotions and stitches the resulting sonic bargello up with deft pop savvy.

Watch Pearl and the Beard perform two songs from the Grey Eagle show. Videos by Jesse Hamm.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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