The great thing about a free show is that you can take a chance on an artist for the cost of a drink. It might not always be a mind-blowing experience, but it’s often a good one. Then there are the times where you come away a changed person with an artist you now love. I was very happy to have that experience when I trudged through the rain to see Micah Visser at O’Hanlon’s.
Visser and his band hail from Winnipeg. At first glance they appear to be a standard rock four-piece: bass, guitar, drums, vocalist/guitarist. A couple of years ago, Visser’s sound might have been a bit more indicative of that style as his album “ok night” demonstrates; guitars wet with reverb, songwriter style chord progressions, ensemble shot sections. Saskatchewan fans might even hear some similarities to Close Talker’s debut EP “Timbers” because of the strong sense of melody and space the band creates. His songs are lovely on the first record, and would have been enjoyable if presented as they were. However, Visser was touring on his new record “forward”
What immediately caught my attention as different with the Visser band compared to the average rock outfit were the drum pad and synthesizers among the instrumentation. The same sense of melody and space that typified Visser’s first album were present, but what blew me away was the combination of energy and lushness that we were treated to. Backbeats often compelled a dancey feeling to be replaced by warm analog sounding pads to cool the audience down before a build begins whipping them into a frenzy again. The guitars were loud and spacious and the baselines were driving.
Visser’s vocals are one of the more unique from an artist I have heard lately. He uses his lower register to great affect, often giving the impression of someone whispering something quietly to you on a late night walk. With their blending of electronic and rock styles (but never “electronic rock”) it might be tempting to compare Micah Visser with Future Islands and their iconic singer Sam Herring. The danceability and energy both offer is clear, but Visser’s melodies have a much larger pop sensibility – there are numerous synth breaks that wouldn’t sound out of place in a CHVRCHES piece and and vocal refrains that are anthemic in construction. In particular, I wish I could have written the hooks in Keeping Up because of their brilliant simplicity.
I’m incredibly glad I hit up O’Hanlons to see Visser. If you feel like you missed out, don’t worry! You have the opportunity to see Micah Visser at BreakOut West! See his set times below and buy wristbands here.
– Jon Neher