On July 6, Bearcubes battled a thumping bass intruding from Middle East next door as they carved a little alcove at T.T.’s for a bit of the Ohio countryside. Their weapons of choice? Oboes. Well played. When Katherine Dohan and Claire Chenette both picked up their respective woodwind, they faced each other across the center of the stage like dueling musicians, though at the Bearcubes show, everyone was among friends – namely, the band’s. A gaggle of supportive pals stood at the front of a mid-sized crowd, singing along and cracking jokes with the five musicians from Oberlin, OH. Peeking at a revamped set list on a sheet of green construction paper, Bearcubes explained that, being the end of their tour, they wanted to keep their performance fresh. Indeed, their swingy orchestration felt appropriate on a steamy Tuesday night – light and airy folk rock with classical touches and bluegrass heart.
The band’s sound proved bright but with a faded-from-the-sun quality – meandering, happy, and fuller than their online recordings. David Greenberg anchored wafting tunes with more prominent drums, waddling his head affably with the beat, while Alex Kramer, grinning eternally over his banjo, escalated a few choice tracks like “Summer Storm” into fast-fingered string squalls worthy of a skip-along. Dohan and Chenette, both sporting cropped coifs and canvas dresses, often switched their instruments between songs, sampling selections from the Bearcubes arsenal of oboes, keyboard, and guitars to complement their soft vocal harmonies.
Towards the end of their set, Bearcubes prefaced one song with a winking invitation for the audience to dance. Their friends cheered in response, realizing “Fall Song” was up next. They spread out in front of unfamiliar onlookers and recreated the quirky choreography from Bearcubes’ homemade music video, gracing the crowd with leaps, handstands, and star jumps to punctuate the song’s melodic oboe solos.
The band themselves certainly had something to jump about that night, having recently finished recording their first album and wrapping up a summer tour. Keep an eye on their website for details about the forthcoming disc, which, as the band informed the gang at TT’s, features a brass band, a full string quartet, and “barcodes” – three signs that Bearcubes can hold their own against the bass.
Photos by Gray Turner