At the beginning of the 4:40 p.m. set, the crowd was pretty sparse. (Me and this guy.)
But the band showed a lot of heart. Guitarist/vocalist Erik Urycki has a soft, easy voice that’s begs comparison to Nick Drake if only for its wistful quality. The band’s song build and swell, characterized largely by Sam Kristoff’s cello (he also plays saw, but we didn’t see that this time.) It’s the cello that sets this band aside from much of the mid-tempo indie-rock being played, but the Speedbumps aren’t a one-trick pony — soft and dark with compelling rhythms is one mood, but in an hour-long show they showcased a number of styles.
By the third song in, “Good Night Sunday, Take Care,” the audience had grown and the mood of the music had shifted to a breezy Jack Johnson-ish number with a keyboard lead by Craig Adams, who — on the next song — switched to banjo.
That song saw percussionist Patrick Hawkins playing kit with brushes — throughout the set he also played with mallets and, during a drum and bass break, sticks on the cymbal. Guitarist/bass player/ukulele player Andrew Bonnis broke out a formidable bass solo, his facial contortions a testament to his effort (Hawkins never seemed to break a sweat, though he played his kit like a fiend).
There really was not a misstep in the set, but “Oh My Mistakes,” the band’s single, was a high point with bell-tone accents from the keys, chunky acoustic guitar, thick, low bass notes and crisp, light percussion. The jazzy Steely Dan feel of “Letter Never Sent,” with Urycki ‘s smoky vocal and Adams’ 70s organ part were also pitch-perfect for the festival.
The Speedbumps finished with their personal anthem, “I Come From A Town,” which they claim is about their hometown but has this rollicking modern drinking shanty feel and had the crowd dancing. The good news: According to their press agent, the Speedbumps plan to make Asheville a more regular stop on their tour route.