Soundtrack web extra: Kovacs and the Polar Bear headline The Grey Eagle

Kovacs and the Polar Bear have quickly become one of the most reliable draws in Asheville. From regular performances at The LAB to the band’s afternoon set at Bele Chere, it’s clear KATPB has earned a devoted local following that turns out enthusiastically for the quartet’s increasingly frequent shows. Nonetheless, headlining the Grey Eagle is a big step for a local act, and last night the band proved its time has come.

The room was hot and stifling as frontman Nick Kovacs greeted the crowd with a rambling soul searcher indicative of the singer’s emotive style. And as the band joined him onstage, the crowd, which already filled half the room, began to stir restlessly. Within the first few notes of the its opening number, the floor was filled with tapping toes and shaking bodies, illustrating that these music lovers were not curious passersby; this audience was filled with fans, fans who had anxiously awaited this night.

The set was familiar to those who’ve caught a KATPB show before, which, judging by the singalongs, was the majority of those in attendance; but there was a palpable enthusiasm in the air that gave the performance a freshness that fueled the crowd’s excitement. For its part, the band barreled through uplifting indie pop, aggressive folk rock and anthemic Americana, swapping instruments and vocal duties as each of the four members showcased their obvious talents. Some of the more impressive displays included drummer Andrew Woodward’s simultaneous double duty on bass/floor tom and multi-instrumentalist Chris Lee’s similar display on bass/keyboard. The set also included a host of a cappella breakdowns that showcased the band’s rich, four-part vocal harmonies, a cornerstone of KATPB’s sound.

Those types of instrumental feats are eye catching — and they fill out the quartet’s sound beyond its numbers — but the band’s real appeal is a knack for evoking emotional connections with its audience. Time after time, soft confessional verses break into explosive choruses, carrying listeners on an emotional roller coaster of sorts. Heartbreak gives way to fury, self reflection fades to hopelessness and nostalgia leads to soaring optimism. It’s a style that begs comparison to the heart-on-your-sleeve approach of indie folk acts like Bright Eyes, but it’s a strategy that is clearly working for for KATPB.

It’s been apparent for months that Kovacs and the Polar Bear are rapidly becoming one of Asheville’s most popular band’s, and its headlining spot at The Grey Eagle proved that reputation is well deserved. The band’s just-completed sophomore album is due in the coming months, and there’s no doubt that with its release, Kovacs’ star will only continue to rise.

After closing with a lighthearted cover of “La Bamba” that saw even the heaviest feet taking to the dance floor, Nick Kovacs thanked the crowd and jokingly acknowledged the symbolic change that the performance ushered in.

“Thanks for making us feel like a real band tonight.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.