Beards, Blazers and Glasses: Peter and the Wolf
Austin's Red Hunter, the man behind Peter and the Wolf, has a reputation for being a weird dude. Chalk it up to his penchant for chartering sailboats to gig up and down the East Coast or his predilection for playing unlikely venues like cemeteries, abandoned buses and islands only accessible via canoe. Not to mention the fact that he's a dude in his mid-20's with the name Red, a moniker usually only taken by deceased Jewish Borscht Belt comedians or long-retired St. Louis Cardinal baseball greats (see Red Buttons, Red Skeleton, and Red Schoendienst.)
But if a no-talent like Justin Timberlake can bring sexy back, I'm not sure why Red Hunter can't bring "Red" back. It's a fine name, a bit overly descriptive but hey, I think people in the 21st Century are completely lacking in colorful nicknames. After all, ask yourself when the last time you saw a baseball player with the nickname Pee Wee or 3-Finger? I rest my case.
Live, Red Hunter/Peter and the Wolf certainly seems to be colorful character, unassuming but unfalteringly gracious on-stage, ackowledging the crowd after most songs, bowing slightly in an over-sized fedora and loose-fitting clothing that make him like he should be a 1940's San Francisco gumshoe not indie rock troubadour. And his retro feel meshes nicely with songs that sound ripped out of an Dust Bowl songbook, frail and withered, with sweet-sounding skeletal arrangements intact.
Dimly lit and intimate, the Silverlake Lounge was a good venue for Peter and the Wolf's acoustic pleas, all delicate lilting guitars, gentle whistles and plaintive harmonica peals. Make no mistake about it, this is mood music, like a less polished Iron & Wine with a Beach House or Brightblack Morning Light drowsiness. Even the sticker on the packaging of Lightness, (Peter and the Wolf's proper debut), reads: a collection of hazy early morning hymns and odes to the sea. So by the very nature of his songs, a Peter and the Wolf live show can't be a raucous dance-party, it's quieter and more private, as though a friend of yours got drunk, picked up his acoustic and started strumming a few half-sketched but gorgeous chords.
Like the album, just 16 songs in 36 minutes, the performance was a bit slight, but it is what is. This isn't supposed to get you in a frenzy, it's the music for the come-down, winter music on a cold night, when you want to curl up in bed with a mug of tea and a book. Taken in that context, Peter and the Wolf more than succeed, making music at worst pleasantly benign, at best beautiful and infectious. Even if the live show wasn't edge-of-your-seat enthralling, it was always pleasant and didn't drag, indicating that Peter and the Wolf and Red Hunter are indeed a group worth checking for. If nothing else because its hard to dislike a person who willingly took the nickname "Red."
See Also Gorilla Vs. Bear's 2006 Best Of List (Lightness came in at #11)
Kevin Bronson's Review of the Show
Peter and the Wolf on Myspace
MP3: Peter and the Wolf-"Safe Travels"
MP3: Peter and the Wolf-"Bonsai Tree"