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The Dwellers' funeral show

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After five years and an astonishingly prolific 20-album run, Indy-based experimental/psychedelic/progressive/folk band The Dwellers decided to say goodbye to their current project before moving on to another musical venture. The band still had one more gig, a funeral show, on Friday night at the White Rabbit alongside three acts with varying degrees of connection to the Dwellers’ founding members Andrew Gustin and John Wick.

The Dwellers' promotional materials - ANDREW GUSTIN
  • Andrew Gustin
  • The Dwellers' promotional materials

Gustin, a multi-instrumentalist, regular member of Christian Taylor's entourage and frontman of Cosmic Laughter said The Dwellers will essentially stay intact but have decided to jettison the name for a fresh start. Before his set Friday, Gustin said the group have been moving in a more Crosby, Stills and Nash-like direction and will pick up where they left off under a new moniker.

Maybe it’s because Gustin implanted CSN in my head earlier in the evening, but the best way to describe The Dwellers—in their current, and final, iteration—is CSN meets Frank Zappa meets Dr. Seuss meets a few bong rips. Almost entirely acoustic, they play with a sort of conscious dissonance; singing slightly off key and slightly out of rhythm with each other as they linger over a certain word or themes, allowing gaps of silence between notes and beats that seem at times to engulf the performance itself.

On one song Gustin repeated the words “maple tree” over and over again about a dozen times, stretching it out and shortening it. To read over their lyrics is like looking over a strange, distorted, childlike and yet substantive form of poetry. For example:

Time isn’t disappearing
It’s building an ocean
Cats like us, we’re always heavy
Swimming around in time

One of my personal favorites was a song in which Wick described meeting and falling for a beautiful girl at school, only to find out she didn’t have much upstairs ( “Erica is like a zombie/It’s like I’m talking to the dead”). Things tended to take a more structured note when Wick took the controls.

From my one—and only—experience with the Dwellers, I’d have to say they play eccentric music that’s clearly not for everyone. But in a world where everything seems to be derivative of everything else, it’s fun to see musicians trying to break new ground.

Bloomington-based trio American Syndrome opened up the night with a set of spooky two-step grunge songs that came off like Nirvana at times and Tom Waits at others, with a bit of the later-era Bob Dylan sprinkled in. The drummer’s bundled sticks and the subdued, haunting guitar lines gave their music a very dusky, desert landscape vibe which, as on songs like “Behind the Sun,” gave way to a rising, alt-rock finish.

Closing acts Mad Anthony, from Cincinnati, and Franklin-based Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes got the short shift due to the late start time of the show and ended up playing for a rather empty house. Mad Anthony plays straight-forward '90s-era punk that sounds somewhere between Danzig and Offspring, while Mr. Clit play a much more disembodied, cymbal-heavy kind of garage rock which one onlooker described as “the White Stripes on acid.”

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