What is magic? The Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski wrote that magic involves the use of paranormal methods to manipulate natural forces to accomplish important life goals. Malinowski discussed how the Trobriand Islanders used magic to manage anxieties of necessary yet dangerous deep sea fishing. According to most scholars, magic is a self-direct activity where an individual manipulates the supernatural to shape the natural. This approach sees magic as an individual practice. However, what if magic is communal? What if magic is something that people create together when they gather for special circumstances and become changed in the process?
This is what happened on Saturday night at Blind Bob’s Bar when Cricketbows played a magical set of truly transformational psychedelic rock and roll. It has been said that a Cricketbows show is a religious experience. And we would not disagree with that but would offer another perspective, perhaps a Cricketbows experience is a magical experience as well.
From the very moment the band took the stage, the crowd could sense an otherworldly musical magic taking hold of them. The band began their set with some of the fantastic songs from their most recent record, ‘Communion’ — a rather apt metaphor for what was happening between the band and the audience that night.
Throughout the set, Cricketbows demonstrated not only excellent song craft but powerful delivery that seemed beyond the usual experience of the concert goers. The band moved through songs from ‘Communion‘ playing the excellent ‘Games People Play’, the moving ‘End of the Night’, and the psychedelic ‘Sea Green’ to new songs that they are recording or soon to record. They also played a fine selection of tunes from their stellar full length ‘Diamonds‘ featuring standouts such as ‘Tiny Little Houses’ and ‘Landing on the Moon’ to more than enthusiastic response.
During the concert, Cricketbows played truly excellent covers such as the moving rendition of a powerful Jane’s Addiction song, the show closing ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and The Monkee’s Porpoise Song (from the soundtrack to the movie Head). The later two songs both previously recorded for ‘Diamonds.’
The audience was transfixed — as with all good magic where the individual loses their sense of separated self and becomes part of the group, collective experience — the audience repeatedly called out for more and the band happily obliged with the cover of the Porpoise Song with a burning intensity that led to cheering and clapping for several minutes until Chad Wells profusely thanked the crowd and had to ignore the calls for more songs from the crowd as the house music came up because the bar was closing soon.
The musicianship throughout the evening was incredible. Christopher Corn on bass was giving a master class in how the bass guitar could not only support a song but could be used as a main instrument in service to a song. The twin guitar attack of Michael Bisig and Chad Wells was amazing. Both are stellar musicians separately however together they transform a song into something powerful with their guitar styles. Kyle Sweney on drums and percussion was incredible through his efforts at propelling a song like an illusion of a runaway freight train yet in reality always in control.
As a concert goer, what is it that you want from singers? Skill? Power? Vocal artistry? Something intangible that cannot be easily grasped? Aarika Watson is a vocalist with few peers. Her singing is more than mere melody. Her screams, yelps, and shouts are more than mere power. She has a rare vocal talent that pulls in the listener as if you believe that she is singing directly to you and only you in that moment in that song. It is difficult to describe the feeling if you have not seen her sing. Dare one say, it is magical.
And Chad Wells, the leader of this spiritual journey, sings with the passion and precision that escapes many singers. His voice is energy. He bends the notes with a fervor of a mission to save souls and convert the listener to a musical salvation. Chad feels the song in a way that will send chills down your spine. And when Aarika and Chad sing together, weaving their voices in a tapestry of the honest human voice such as with ‘Landing on the Moon’ or ‘Sea Green’, nothing else matters. The listener is not thinking about what to do tomorrow, you are there in that moment hearing those sounds, those voices and you are transported, you are indeed changed.
Isn’t that what magic is supposed to do? To create a transcendence through community in a moment that becomes something special. That is Cricketbows.