Darlingside: Innovative Talent and Humble Personas Create a Joyful Sound in Albany

Darlingside returned to Albany to perform in the little theatre at The Egg Saturday night, surrounded by family, friends, and fans of all ages. Accompanied by the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, who opened with an overture of the better-known Darlingside melodic themes, the group initially struggled with some balance issues before settling into a gorgeous, full sound of their four-part harmony accompanied by a full string orchestra. The teenagers struggled to find their pitch, but the musicians gently adjusted and shifted the sound until the music found its centerre.

If you don’t know Darlingside, you are really missing out. Their characteristic sound of harmonies, dynamic changes in volume and tempo, punctuated by well-enunciated lyrics about growing up, growing old, love, loss, and most of all the humble experience of being human, was demonstrated with integrity Saturday night.

Darlingside is dreamy and hopeful and honest and romantic all at once.

It is also a group noted for taking risks. Calling themselves “indie folk,” the once-a cappella group from Williams College has created an entirely new sound by incorporating various strings (mandolin, banjo, cello, violin, electric and acoustic guitar) with an electric keyboard to create an entirely new sound. Bassist Dave Sentif’s constant kick drum rhythm rounded the sound out to make each song unique but strongly recognizable. There was a soulful intensity that reminded one sometimes of church, sometimes of bluegrass, but always of folk music from days past.

In an exciting opportunity, the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra was brought to Albany to work with Darlingside for this concert. Co-sponsored by ESYO, and with tremendous energy put forth from parents and adult organizers for music, the youth orchestra had three performances with the band.

The Youth Orchestra joined Darlingside for approximately 20 minutes before exiting the stage, giving room for some chatting, jokes, and a preview of a new release the group has promised later in February. “This feels lonely now,” Dave joked after the string orchestra left the stage. But the group quickly launched into “Go Back,” striking a resoundingly beautiful harmony that settled down any listener into a quiet, focused place. Juxtaposing tempo and volume with dramatic lyrics, the musicians return to the familiar peaceful sound for which they are loved.

Between songs and while tuning, band members took turns sharing stories that both distracted audience members and illuminated the overall character of the band. When talking with the high school students, banjo player Don Mitchell wondered, “What’s going on in High Schools these days? “ after a student warned him that pineapple has an enzyme that “eats your tongue.” Another whimsical moment featured an anecdote where the band decided, as it was a special occasion to be staying in Vermont with a friend, to purchase beer. It became immediately clear that the band doesn’t usually drink, and even when they do, they don’t consume much. As Auyon Mukjarji noted, “I am not going to have two beers, because I’m not an animal,” leading to many laughs, and also a reflection on how the musicians are atypical – they don’t romanticize alcohol and drug use, but in fact seem to shun it.

The humble and modest musicians stepped off the stage and off microphone to harmonize to their new release, coming February 22, that is “done but not finished.” Members shared a bit of anxiety about how long it takes them to practice and learn the music, only to be more anxious off stage performing closer to the audience. Even so, this anxious quartet demonstrated tremendous talent and breath control, harmonizing beautifully to their new music.

Rejoined by the Youth Orchestra, they finished strong with some of their more better-known pieces, including “Orion” and “God of Loss.” Band members acknowledged the special connection with the younger musicians, and seemed to greatly enjoy the opportunity to join with the orchestra to maximize multilevel songs and expand their sound.

Dave Senft, Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, and Harris Paletiner have created something unique, authentic, and a bit disorienting for the music world. Not quite a fit in any one genre, they are musicians in their own right, expanding and breathing life into poetry and music just when we need it most. They demonstrate flexibility, adaptability, tremendous range, and, above all, joy in their musicianship. There is little surprise their fan base is growing.

Darlingside. They are daring, talented, innovative, and humble. Take a journey with them through their music. You won’t regret it.