On Saturday evening, I staked out a spot at the Williamsburg bar Spuyten Duyvil, ordered a pint of beer, and waited for Will Oldham to show up. The occasion was a release event for an EP and a particular brew that served as a collaboration between Oldham, the band Watter, and Baltimore’s Stillwater Artisanal, a craft brewery who’ve done a handful of collaborations with musicians, including Lower Dens. The band, Bonnie Stillwatter, was doing a lightning round of appearances, stopping at five different bars across the city over the course of the night; Spuyten Duyvil would be the penultimate stop.
Oldham has done this kind of thing before; the release of his collaboration with Matt Sweeney, Superwolf, was celebrated with a similar marathon session of sets at different record stores around the city. At around nine o’clock, the band set up in the bar’s back yard; some gathered closely around the musicians, while others sat at tables to take everything in. They played two songs: a song that my friend Ben identified as an Aphrodite’s Child cover, and the title track of their EP, The Devil is People. Said song found the band tapping into the same sprawling, mournful style that can be heard on the Bonnie “Prince” Billy album The Letting Go. It made for a good soundtrack for the space, restrained and emphatic, just haunting enough to add a dose of the strange to the night.