Boston-based band, As the Sparrow, presumably named after the Bukowski poem of the same name, spent this past Saturday night with appreciative patrons of the bustling John Harvard’s Brew House in Harvard Square. The folk band features a flexible lineup that can grow to up to eight members and modifies its stage presence on the fly, oscillating between a full stage and a more intimate trio or quartet. The breaking members stand back and enjoy the solid instrumental work of their peers with the rest of the onlookers.
As the Sparrow brought only five members to John Harvard’s, but without prior knowledge of the band’s incomplete presence, it would have been virtually impossible to recognize any lost sound. According to the band’s website, songwriter Mark Damon “draws from the energy of 1940's big band swing music as well as the intimacy and poetry of the 1960's folk era.” Those styles are pulled into a confluence of nostalgic themes that is engulfed by a contemporary façade, allowing them to not only pull off rock covers like the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun,” but to also make them sound fresh. As the Sparrow also played Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” a controversial song that has garnered even more inauspicious reactions since his already notorious “duet” with Miley Cyrus at the VMAs. The smattering of eclectic covers fit well within a set filled out with folk originals.
Multiple vocalists—all with pretty solid pipes—harmonized while rocking out on guitars, ukuleles, violins, and washboards. The crew played well together and engaged in several instrumental jams that drew the attention of the audience away from their conversations so that they might share in the communal rhythms with foot stomps and hand clapping. The ensemble’s collaborative style and vocal sonorities are reminiscent of the Decemberists, and although it would be blasphemous to truly compare the two bands (yet), As the Sparrow has a ton of potential and certainly provided the John Harvard’s crowd with an excellent Saturday night soundtrack.