When: Sun., March 1, 8 p.m. 2015
The Lumineers have ridden high on the new wave of stomp-and-shout folk music, with gigs alongside the Dave Matthews Band and a chicken-themed parody on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Two years ago, it seemed impossible to avoid their quintuple-platinum single, "Ho Hey." But before The Lumineers reconvene to work on a new record this summer, their keyboardist, Stelth Ulvang, has launched a tour to support his own record, And As Always, The Infinite Cosmos. While The Lumineers benefit from teams of managers, handlers and publicists, Ulvang does all that himself.
"It's all thrown together to fill that space," he says. "I'm playing house shows and galleries, a cave, a recording studio at some point. It's just a less traditional setup of venues, which most of the time, I like a lot more."
With a capacity of 250, Durham's The Pinhook is actually a bit bigger than most of the other stops on Ulvang's self-made tour. That casual essence suits his music. While The Lumineers trend toward the clean and polite, Ulvang favors spirited numbers that recall a more cheerful Illinoise-era Sufjan Stevens. They're anchored by a piano and delivered with a frantic energy.
"The music itself is trying to be a little less intimate," he says. "I tried to be a little bolder on this record than on previous ones that I've made with my other bands."
For And As Always, The Infinite Cosmos, Ulvang works with a 16-piece outfit—big horn sections, thick layers of guitars, militias of percussion. But he whittles that ensemble to just four people on the road. Still, the energy remains. During "Clocktower," for instance, Ulvang and company go full-tilt, howling over bluesy piano and pounding drums. It sounds as if everyone on stage is about to burst from cases of pent-up nerves. What Ulvang's live show lacks in personnel he works to recover in spirit. Even a Lumineeer doesn't always have a Lumineers-sized budget at hand. The Collection and Lonnie Walker open. —Allison Hussey