The Thought Lot showcased a relaxing evening of acoustic folk music on Saturday as The Positronic Cats and Eli August played to a modest audience, playing simple songs filled with immense imagery and relatable themes.
The Positronic Cats, hailing from Greencastle, Pennsylvania, opened, but with only half the band. Waylon K. Smith represented the band alone. Jim Taylor, who usually accompanies Smith with a mandolin, could not make the event. However, that did not hold Smith back.
Smith was an acoustic powerhouse on his own. He strummed his guitar loudly, matched the volume with his clean vocals and filled the Thought Lot impressively.
The lyrics were complicated. They spoke of stories about space, being adrift in the sea, being stuck in relationships and so on. But every song sounded simplistic, so that the songs as a whole would not be overblown and convoluted.
In that simplicity was a progressive folk backbone. The songs started off softly, and then took a crescendo to a satisfying climax. It was as if each song was an adventure that could fit in a western movie. This balance allowed the listener to spark imagination, where sounds become images and the listener becomes a participant.
This dynamic of simple sounds with complex story-telling has been the band’s manifesto and their success lies in capturing that essence.
Eli August, from Baltimore, Maryland, performed next, and offered a different taste of folk. Although his music was simple, the themes and stories were simple. They were more political, more grassroots and Americana. The vibes were peaceful and inviting, as if the world was resting for a split second.
Some songs were pop-like, some were energizing, while others were melodramatic. No matter the subject, August could strike that balance between the proper tone needed and allowing the audience to act vicariously.
One song in particular spoke of his sister who had her home broken into in Kentucky and the feelings she had of coming home to that horrible situation. Even though not everyone has gone through this, August’s words were so poignant that everyone could relate to what he called “a violation.”
There were other songs that were more about being young and free in life. The song “Riverbend,” for example, was about someone being introduced to the world of someone you just met and seeing new things that they find fun, like climbing trees and seeing blue, open skies. “Riverbend” had fast-paced riffs that when you hear it, it is as if you were able to run forever.
The big takeaway from these two folk groups was that the songs were straightforward. With that, the impressive talent of allowing the audience to imagine what was being heard instantaneously is something very few musicians can accomplish.