Olden Yolk breezed into Cambridge in support of their newest LP, Living Theatre, leaving behind traces of an atmospheric calm.

5/17/19 – Lilypad

Olden Yolk’s music is difficult to describe with adjectives; rather, it is best described using an imagined sense of place: a cool pillow, a window leaking sunlight, a quiet teahouse, a room filled with tapestries and candles. All of these places can inspire a deep sense of calm and meditation, similar to Olden Yolk’s music. The latter of places listed, the dimly-lit, tapestry-filled venue The Lilypad in Cambridge, is where Olden Yolk played on May 17th in support of their gorgeous sophomore LP, Living Theatre.

The show at The Lilypad was a homecoming of sorts for co-frontman Shane Butler (guitar/vocals), an alumnus of Boston-based psych-folk outfit Quilt. Along with the other co-frontwoman Caity Shaffer (keys, vocals), Pete Wagner (bass), Ryan Jewell (drums), and Frank Maston, Olden Yolk played a cozy set that could make even the most displaced feel at home. Fittingly, the LP itself is named after a titular thespian movement that encouraged actors to “break from tradition by creating an experience of communal expression.”

The songs Olden Yolk played off Living Theatre had underlying themes based on displacement and the freedoms and restrictions that come with living on the road. And in these themes, there is a universal familiarity and relatability—important aspects for an overall communal show experience. As Shaffer sung in the eerie ballad “Distant Episode,” “Sacred is the living theatre / Though it’s getting hard to step outside.”

Other tracks off Living Theatre like “Cotton and Cane” and “Blue Paradigm” have similar existential themes. “Cotton and Cane,” one of the leading singles off the album, is a hooky track with soaring vocals. Over the smooth, quick strums of an electric/acoustic guitar, Butler sung the opening lines, ““I’m not sure if you know what it does to me now / Had to live on my own, had to live with the sound of my voice.” Similarly, Shaffer sung “Blue Paradigm” in a hauntingly introspective, ethereal manner, complementing Butler’s signature warm vocals.

There are indeed a few tracks in which Butler and Shaffer sing together; the most notable of which was “Hen’s Teeth,” the final encore. A track on the group’s debut self-titled album, “Hen’s Teeth” showed off Butler’s unparalleled fingerpicking skills as well as his and Shaffer’s masterful harmonization. Whether intentional or not, “Hen’s Teeth” sticks with the theme of ephemerality, especially with the concept of home: “We stole the keys and hit the road / Away from where we were a guest.” Butler and Shaffer are amazing songwriters, and a true pleasure to watch live. Their talent, is, in their own words, “Scarce as hen’s teeth, as they say.”

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