Much of Holy Holy Vine‘s Friday night set at The Grey Eagle (supporting Hurray for the Riff Raff) was indie-folk set to a rolling boil. The boil was fueled both by Danni Iosello’s drumming and Flora Wolpert Checknoff lyrics. Often those lyrics floated just below the surface. Not lost in the instrumentation, but not needing to stand in the spotlight, either. Vocals as an accent to the music, rather than as the center piece, is not exactly unprecedented — but it’s not the typical live band formula, either.
Then again, not much about Holy Holy Vine is typical. Checknoff’s singing voice is rich and low with a lustrous upper register revealed only now and then, like a bell rung into a steeple. And, while some of the songs edged up against pastoral, they belonged to a pasture in mid-stampede.
Similarly, while Holy Holy Vine’s sound is organic and experimental, its folkloric tendencies are tempered with a post-industrial ethos. Post-post-industrial. The soundtrack of a society toppled from its space-age pillar and catapulted back to an agrarian age, but with the memory of machinery preserved in tact.
The strings section of Erica Schinasi (violin) and Dailey Toliver (bass) provided a lush and orchestral foil. As much as they could have turned Holy Holy Vine into an orchestral outfit, both instruments dared to veer away from prettiness. The violin, especially, groaned and squealed. Schinasi plucked her instrument while Toliver bowed his; Checknoff switched from acoustic to electric guitar. A song, late in the set, led with an intro that sounded like a swarm of insects before settling into warm melody.
And, while Holy Holy Vine’s songs often seemed to be built on movement, they were less about classical arrangements and more about chapters in a story. Pages turned in sheet music, novels, personal journals. Secrets released into the atmosphere and allowed to flutter for a moment — bright wings beating at the light — before falling to the ground or being consumed by the luminous moment.