Ivan & Alyosha at DC9

The Seattle folk rock band Ivan & Alyosha perform at DC9. Photo: Ivan & Alyosha

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2013 —Ivan & Alyosha are often referred to as an indie folk band. If you listen to their first full-length album All the Times We Had, this makes perfect sense. There are a few rock elements involved in these tracks. But for the most part, the album is a laid back selection of songs played at brisk but not necessarily fast pace. It’s the kind of debut any indie folk band would be happy with.

After hearing Ivan & Alyosha in a recent live show here, it’s readily apparent the band is at least nominally an indie folk band in this type of setting. Instead of focusing on the folk side, though, the band turns their live performance into a straightforward rock act that gives off a lot of energy.

Ivan & Alyosha doesn’t change their album sound at all, simply shifting some of its perspective for their recent performance at bar venue DC9. Rather than going with more of a folk sound, it’s better to ramp up the tempo and play with a bit more urgency in this kind of space in order to hold the crowd.

This isn’t a new idea for bands similar to Ivan & Alyosha. These bands often have an introspective quality, which also holds true with Ivan & Alyosha. In certain situations, it would make sense for them to play up that aspect of their sound. Venues that specialize in seated affairs would maximize this effect. This isn’t the kind of venue DC9 is though. This space encourages the grittier side of most bands’ output, and this is exactly what it did for Ivan & Alyosha. And when they’re given the chance to take this approach, they’re recent performance here proved that they’re ready to run with it.

Although we’ve mentioned that Ivan & Alyosha’s album tends toward a more subdued sound, we don’t mean to convey the idea that they’re exactly laid back. As they demonstrated here, they aren’t really that mellow. And it’s ultimately this dichotomy that makes their show a bit difficult to classify as folk. There are certain details of their music and performance that lead them down that path, most notably evident in everything front man Tim Wilson does for the band.

Wilson’s onstage demeanor would seem to support the persona of a folk singer/songwriter, ranging from his acoustic guitar swaying to his airy, crooning vocals. The rest of the band, though, fills out the sound and enhances their indie rock chops. Guitarists Ryan Carbary and Tim Kim provide equal, dueling measures of light and hard approaches, something that keeps the pace moving swiftly but also allows the band to stay grounded. It’s the kind of sound that feels like it could easily go off the rails. But it’s all under control, and everything stays in that nice little indie rock bubble the band has carved out for itself.

This makes Ivan & Alyosha seem like a more complicated band than they actually are.  Ultimately, they’re really a straightforward indie rock group that’s able to subtly alter the simple dynamic of their sound to fit their audience or venue. It’s a useful and clever skill for a band to pick up, and Ivan & Alyosha use it skillfully and to great effect.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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