Vetiver shows roots, growth at First Unitarian

Andy Cabic greeted a sweaty crowd in the basement of the First Unitarian Church in Center City last night, dapper in a derby cap and vest that belied the humid September evening.

But, with a rapt audience the Vetiver lead singer thanked for being “ so well behaved,” the five piece coolly rolled through a well-executed set that featured timeworn favorites as well as dynamic performances off their latest LP, The Errant Charm.

And while the drab, dimly lit setting hardly seemed fitting for so sunny a band, they quickly filled the room with color, leading off with “Wonder Why” — one of the tracks Sup Pop released before dropping the full-length, 10-track record in mid June.

It would seem a summer of touring has worn those songs well for the band, with a simmering performance rousing the crowd from the first riff onward.

Staying true to their penchant for a craftily reworked cover, the second song of their set spun the Go-Betweens’ “Streets of Your Town” into a dark, shadowy psych jam laced with cool guitar work.

Fans responded enthusiastically when the first, thudding chords of “Strictly Rule” off of 2009’sTight Knit filled the room, with Cabic jokingly describing the song as him “trying to pretend I’m in The Rain Parade,” a short-lived Los Angeles band that recorded in the 1980s.

They followed that number with Errant Charm’s ldquo;Hard to Break,” offering a mellowed-out, dreamy rock tune that seemed to captivate the room, even as the band broke off into a bit of a rocking interlude before the song returned to its dreamy pace.

Indeed, with the band recording at WXPN’s West Philly studios earlier in the day and a number of local musicians coming out to the Sept. 14 show, it seemed Vetiver displayed a strong following here, with fans reacting strongly even to their newest numbers — and this at a show where the Fruit Bats headlined.

One of the most passionate songs of the night, “Right Away” showcased their classic blend of rocking guitar arrangements and wistful, honey-smooth vocals.

That was followed by Tight Knit’s gorgeous love song, “Everyday,” a poetic charmer carried along by a simple series of do-do-do’s that had the crowd swaying along to Cabic’s sweet crooning.

If that song had the room melting into a little puddle of love, the extreme riffs and bluesy boogie that followed surely broke the trance, with the band showing they still have plenty of rock ’n’ roll left in them.

Through and through, it was a lively set, one finished off with a rollicking, hand-clapping rendition of “Wishing Well.”

Moments like that make for interesting contemplation for longtime fans who can remember the days when bigger beards and connections to Devendra Banhart seemed to define their organic roots and hippy leanings.

Yet, even with Errant Charm and its lush, complex layers being seen by some as a departure from their perhaps simpler folk beginnings, it was hard to see that distance here — songs from across their catalogue seemed quite comfortable together on stage, and the crowd gladly ate it up on this warm September night.••