Low Thirty Three Degrees, January 26

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Thirty Three Degrees, January 26

It was almost fire marshal time at Thirty Three Degrees, and for once, it was about thirty-three degrees -- on the Celsius side -- inside, body heat emanating from about as many people as can fit into a Guadalupe record store that carries a full stock of Amon Düül albums. Yet despite the packed house, Low, the husband-and-wife-led trio from Duluth, Minnesota, managed to keep things cozy as a Yule log by the fireplace. At the show's peak, there were quite a few onlookers with their noses pressed up against the store's front window, but true believers with their rears parked on the carpet in front of the band experienced Low the way they were meant to be experienced. Better still, the bright, chatty Friday-afternoon setting suited the band much better than the smoke-filled Mercury later that night, where the group played a nonetheless-riveting full set. You could read it on the faces of vocal team Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker as they passed around their not-yet-year-old baby while speaking with friends and fans as they set up: This was almost as much of a treat for Low as for their fans. With Sparhawk's first gentle pluck of a string, Parker's light tap of a cymbal with her drumstick brush, combined with the first harmonized word that flowed from their lips, all present were utterly entranced by Low's pure, sweet, airy sound. Thus, for the world's quietest pop band, playing in their quietest setting, not a peep could be heard from the crowd over or between the gentle cascade of notes and harmonies -- save for the occasional ba-ba-babbly proclamation from little baby Hollis, sitting in a friend's lap just a few feet in front his parents. It was all Sparhawk and Parker could do to wipe the grins off their faces, and the faces of the attendees, who were clearly fascinated by this development. In a rare role reversal, proud mama Parker busted out the camera between songs and fixed on the audience and little Hollis during a pure-as-applesauce Kodak moment. Even in the midst of one of their more rollicking numbers, "Sunflower," the strummy opener to their new album Things We Lost in the Fire, Low's music is so pleasant a baby can appreciate it as much as a too-cool-to-drool crowd busy losing their rocks. Which they most certainly did when Sparhawk sang the opening line to "Starfire." Just as the remarkable Christmas album was a gift from band to fans, so was this rare treat, and when Sparhawk instigated a fevered barrage of requests for the sixth and final song, the result was Long Division opener "Violence," a song as sweet and contradictory as the band itself.

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