Review: Twin Brother at D.C.’s Velvet Lounge

Twin Brother, courtesy of the band.
Twin Brother, courtesy of the band.

WASHINGTON, October 30, 2014 – The Milwaukee trio band Twin Brother is in the early stages of their development. This isn’t generally noticeable in the way they play. But it’s a fact that becomes all too clear watching them play at venues like DC’s Velvet Lounge in front of a sparse crowd.

The seedy glamour prized by the rock and roll establishment makes any performance space giving off this aura precisely the kind of venue established bands love to reminisce about. Frequently, they’ll recall almost with fondness their own earliest performance experiences when reminiscing on their early days.

So it’s not surprising that places with that special aura are where bands in their beginning stage like Twin Brother like to perform, almost exclusively.

Twin Brother has only been around since 2013, but they’ve already encountered the lumps a band has to take when its members try to make a go if it. On any tour that takes a band away from its comfort zone, playing in front of a minimal audience—or in some cases essentially zero paid admissions–they will encounter a fear of the unknown, something that can negatively affect their performance. That was the reality for Twin Brothers during their performance at the Velvet Lounge. But somehow they more or less took it in stride.

What the Lounge audience ended up with felt more like an impromptu jam session for Twin Brother rather than any meticulously prepared set. The trio focused on what they were playing, almost as if the stage were their own personal cocoon. Shows that happen like this can be a bit disconcerting. But when the band focuses inward, that problem can fade away as they ease their way into their set and reach a comfort level.

The way their performance unfolded made it seem, by the end of the night, like this might be the only kind of show Twin Brother could have performed. It’s also possible they wouldn’t have changed their attitude and their sound regardless of how large the audience was. They’re music seems almost tailor made for intimate moments.

At their core, Twin Brother is an introspective band, but that’s not news for anyone familiar with folk bands. Twin Brother doesn’t necessarily deviate from the accepted. Their song structures are stripped down and streamlined to make the most of every emotion wrapped within each song. There is hardly a wasted moment during any of their songs, and one senses a great sense of economy in each one as they progress.

But in terms of emotional content, the trio isn’t static. They capture moments of melancholy as well as experiencing a sense of emotional uplift. They blend their material with a hard-to-grasp but inherent world-weariness, which adds an extra layer of texture to their music.

A great deal of this has to do with Tyler Raasch’s vocals. Raasch ably supplies this atmosphere with the tired but hopeful crooning of a well-worn, experienced storyteller. This motif is further developed through the versatility of bass player/violinist Lodewijk Broekhuizen and the deft touch of Tyler Nelson on the drums.

Things will eventually stabilize and get better for this Milwaukee trio. As if to prove the point, they’ve just released their second full length album, Swallow the Anchor.

True, they seemed uncertain and uncomfortable in their performance here. But some nights are like this, especially when a band is still in its beginning phases. Eventually, if Twin Brother chooses its music and venues wisely, they, too, like veteran musicians, will remember nights like this one with fondness while putting forth their own brand of emotive folk.

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