About 50 people gathered within the small, half-bar half-concert space, venue to take in the warmth exuded by the Icelandic band, who only now were headlining their first North American tour.
With their recently released second album, We Built a Fire, Seabear have put forth a more collaborative effort, unlike their previous work,The Ghost that Carried Us Away which was masterminded by lead singer Sindri Már Sigfússon. The group’s music is a pleasant blend of indie and low-key folksy songs, all sung in English. The seven members, including Sigfusson, are also artists, maintaining projects, musical or otherwise, outside the band. Sóley Stefánsdóttir, the keyboardist, opened the evening with a set of her own songs. With all this experience the band’s performance certainly contained some polish, uncharacteristic of a high number of the bands at SXSW. But for the most part, their music is innocuous and uncontroversial; charming and pleasing, never complicated or unapproachable.
The band was light on banter most of the show, except for introducing every song, starting from “Arms”. When Sigfússon expressed his pleasure at being in Philadelphia, a member of the audience congratulated him for pronouncing it correctly. Oddly, someone else shouted “diarrhea” and “cheese whiz” back to the stage eliciting some puzzled repetition. Thankfully a more supportive fan shouted a request, “I Sing I Swim”, to which Sigfússon agreed, “ok we can play that”. (The set list did indicate it as the final song).
Further into the set, a couple dashed up to the front to dance along to the up tempo “Fire Dies Down”. The liveliness momentarily regressed with the quieter “Cold Summer” before returning, again, with “Wolfboy”. Finally, Sigfússon announced they had come to their final song and hoped the audience could sing along. But breaking his capo, he had to dart into the basement to retrieve another, leaving the rest of Seabear to attempt a brief reggae vamp. When he returned, Sigfússon joked, “I know it’s not a rap concert” and suggested a call and response of “I say ‘Sea’, you say ‘Bear’”. Instead the band played the lilting “Seashell”. Its “ahh ahh” sing-along seemed like a fitting finale, making the track stand out. Sigfússon wondered out loud, “will we feel like this for the rest of our lives?” I certainly hope so.
Photos by Sachyn Mital