Music Park: Gun Outfit @ Café Saint-Ex — 12/7/15

Gun-Outfit-at-Northside-Fest-Pitchfork-showcase-Samantha-Marble
Gun Outfit at the Northside Fest Pitchfork Showcase (Photo by Samantha Marble)

Dylan Sharp sings with a kind of twang that takes you down empty, open roads.

His band Gun Outfit, which he formed with fellow vocalist and guitarist Carrie Keith, covers some distinct territory as its music rolls down those roads. Gun Outfit play folk music to be sure — but the band’s fourth full-length album, Dream All Over, released in October via Paradise of Bachelors, wanders into the unhurried haziness of psychedelia with an air of Americana.

When Dylan sings on “Matters to a Head,” one of the more rollicking and best tracks on the new album, he sings as a bit of a rambler who has witnessed it all. The song’s bright and lively guitar backs up the concept of a man on the move as he assesses expectations and confrontations.

Dylan and Carrie, along with bassist Adam Payne and drummer Dan Swire, visited DC to play a show at Café Saint-Ex on Monday night in a first-ever headlining tour of the East coast. The band currently resides in Los Angeles, but they spent most of their career among the well-regarded punk scene of Olympia, Wash., where they clearly mastered appealing melodies and lyrical straight talk.

Singing live, I found Dylan’s voice had more character than it does on the (very good) album, and as such it’s an element in the band’s ability to transport you into a dreamy state, perhaps in line with the album’s title.

Watch Gun Outfit perform at Office Space in Seattle on Nov. 13, 2015, in a dimly lit fan-made video that rather suits the music:

Carrie’s voice is sweet yet resonant. Gun Outfit really comes together when she and Dylan duet, such as on album opener “Gotta Wanna” — her voice a bit more uplifting and hopeful; his voice a bit more weathered. Her voice is also well-suited to tunes where the band veers a little onto psychedelic ground, such as in the love song “Angelino,” where she imparts a mystic quality to the track’s roving guitars.

Café Saint-Ex proved to be an interesting place to see a show. Gun Outfit’s gear and accompanying sound system took up a good two-thirds of the basement, Gate 54, really giving the place the look and feel of a DIY show. The remaining third of the floor was quite packed with a young audience that turned out to see the bands that night.

Gun Outfit have a few more East coast dates — Thursday, Dec. 10 in Philadelphia and Saturday, Dec. 12 in Brooklyn — then they take a few months off touring before hitting the United Kingdom in February.

As many others have said before me, the band are certainly blazing their own trail with a unique and agreeable sound that warrants your attention. They are one of those bands that stand in the crossroads of “competing” genres to demonstrate how these sounds really are quite complementary. And so Gun Outfit are definitely a band that can make you think about how music is put together.

But you might enjoy them best if you don’t think at all and simply let their music carry you away down whichever lonely road that Gun Outfit are traveling.

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