Tuesday night, while all my friends tweeted incessantly about Male Bonding at the Rickshaw Stop, I was quietly preparing for Himalayan Bear at the Hemlock Tavern. After writing an article on Himalayan Bear’s Hard Times (Absolutely Kosher), I found myself obsessively revisiting the album.
Each time I listened to Ryan Beattie’s range-vaulting voice and dark, reverb-drenched guitar, yet another reason to love the album revealed itself to me. I spotted Beattie grabbing a beer and a shot at the bar before ducking back into the dimly lit concert room. I made a mad dash to catch what I knew would be a memorable set. What I didn’t know was that his performance would turn out to be one of the greatest things I’ve seen all year.
As soon as Beattie launched into the first wailing guitar notes of the title track, “Hard Times,” and began crooning with that mournful, impassioned voice, I was floored. Assisted
by his brother Patrick Beattie on keys, Megan Boddy on viola, and Matt Skillings on drums, Beattie treated us to Hard Times in its entirety. Years spent playing guitar in Frog Eyes have paid off; Beattie filled the tiny room with lush reverberation. He floated marvelously in and out of his divine trademark falsetto.
Witnessing this cathartic performance in such an intimate setting, I felt as if I’d cheated somehow. Standing there, enraptured by Beattie, I recalled what he told me the first time we spoke: “To me, playing live is the greatest thing ever.”