BY MAX SIMON | Jonk Music
On Friday, Bryan John Appleby will open for Blitzen Trapper and The Head and the Heart at the Capitol Theatre in the Overture Center. Luckily, the concert was moved from the Orpheum to the Overture Center and thus enriching the acoustics of what will be a spectacular night.
The Head and the Heart is a warmhearted indie-folk group — debatably the best new thing out of Seattle besides Russell Wilson. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Monday night's final play notwithstanding.] Portland's Blitzen Trapper won't startle the headlining genre with its alternative/folk package. And folks, when I say folk, I mean it in the most experimental, eclectic, and exciting way possible.
The two groups on Sub Pop Records have a knack for first impressions. Have no fear; I will elevate your expectations. Although the name may be unfamiliar to you, Bryan John Appleby is the name that comes with the reason you won't want to arrive late to the show.
Appleby is a modest, multitalented, Seattle-based songwriter with the tools for talent. A man of both the sticks and pick, Appleby attributes his musicality to one of his inspirations, Paul Simon. Yes, Simon's music style and tempo is a bit different, but Appleby too structures his music around lyrics. "Often I fill an entire notebook with one song," Appleby tells us. Thoughts condense, a guitar tells its story, and piece-by-piece an album is born.
Just last year, Appleby released his debut full-length album, Fire on the Vine, as a sophomore to his 2009 six-song record, Shoes for Men and Beasts. From his official website: "Appleby spent winter and spring of  holed up with close friends in a Ballard warehouse banging pots, plucking strings, tapping mason jars, and plunking pianos." What came out of this cacophony were 11 songs possessing raw harmony — an exquisite blend of experimental acoustics.
Originally from California, Appleby takes the northwest coast to heart. Growing up, he recalls fishermen living in RVs, open water, open fields. Serenity. Though his lyrics don't necessarily stem from west coast experiences, listeners can feel the west coast vibe in Appleby's rhythmic soundscapes.
"Honey Jars" is a simple, beautiful song. Though minimalistic, the track is backed by poetic lyricism. "And if I made it to a pay phone / I don't know who I would call / so for now I'll close my eyes and rest / my crooked back against the wall." Like Three 6 Mafia's poetic music, this one verse has the chime and charisma to frame an entire song.
In low-budget films, I love the moment when the soundtrack pauses, the camera zooms in on the main character, and he or she says the title of the film. Minus the tackiness, hearing the album title in one song off Fire on the Vine provides similar pleasure. "The words you spoke in the middle of the night / they fall heavy like a hammer on my mind / you are the light in the darkness, you're the fire on the vine." At that moment in "The Words of the Revelator," the album is summed up into a collage of brilliant metaphors, earthy acoustics, and touching vocals.
Inspired by the deduction theory and transitive property, I asked Appleby if his songwriting could be attributed to having a lush, red beard. He laughed and answered, "Not really, but it keeps my chin warm." It was worth a shot.
Getting a laugh out of Appleby was easy. Not only is he personable and relatable in conversation, but his traits also shine through his music. A modest man with a luring performance is the optimal combination, especially when paired with his good friends, The Head and the Heart. "They didn't have to bring me out on the tour, but they insisted,' Appleby said.
Madisonians, listen to Fire on the Vine and take my side on this one: Bryan John Appleby deserves every reason to play among the best. Get there in time on Friday to check him out with Blitzen Trapper and The Head and the Heart.