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Field Report Are Not Waiting Anymore

2 Aug

By Natalie Gallagher
Photos by Kyle Matteson

Chris Porterfield took the stage at First Ave on Friday night as the opener for Dr. Dog, suited up smartly with the rest of his band, collectively known as Field Report. He had a quiet sort of presence, at first, and as he opened with the disarmingly honest “I Am Not Waiting Anymore,” the scant crowd hardly took notice. But Porterfield does it that way, without demanding any attention, and then, suddenly, two songs in, he hasn’t bothered to introduce himself and the audience is all ears. His songs are heartbreaking, wide plateaus, and they stretch on like a Midwestern landscape full of wind and weeds and a steely truth—the kind of thing that, for a Minneapolis audience, already feels like home.

Then again, Porterfield is kind of local, anyway. Born and raised in Rochester, he now hails from Milwaukee, and his ties to the Midwest—and, in particular, local Twin Cities music scene, run pretty deep. Back in the day, Porterfield used to be in a little band called DeYarmond Edison with Justin Vernon and the gentlemen of Megafaun. When the band moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Raleigh, North Carolina, Porterfield stayed behind and settled down—got married, got a job, and tried his hardest to kick the music habit.

He couldn’t, thankfully, and now, music fans are rewarded with an artist that deserves, more than ever, to be heard. As the crowd at First Avenue trickled in and filled up the floor, Field Report quickly won them over—an achievement with its own special kind of magic.

Porterfield isn’t one to mince words, and his songs aren’t the kind that happen without purpose. That, and he has a voice that makes the most despair-filled scenes sound as hopeful as they are tragic. When he sings from the point of view of a young mother-to-be in “Fergus Falls,” he isolates all the sentiments in one verse:

“I was concealing his kid, under his crew neck state school sweatshirt
While he grinned off in the distance, behind prescription shades
They were blocking out the clouded out sun
While he was hoping against a daughter
And no one saw my banners, my bruises, my flares, my flags”

Porterfield accomplishes songs like this as casually as a beanbag poet might, letting the guitar (Jeff Mitchell) and pedal steel (Ben Lester) fill in all the crevices where you thought raw emotion couldn’t go. When Porterfield’s gravelly growl breaks in “Captain Video,” Nick Berg on keys is there to gently bring the song back in, like a calming hand on the shoulder. The music of Field Report feels something like a battle scar: in the aftermath of a song, you realize the impact it had on you, and then you’re just standing there in the sunset, your ears all fuzzy from biting guitar strings, trying to breathe again.

This was a last-minute opening set at First Avenue, but undoubtedly this is just the beginning for an about-time music career. Field Report has been in the Twin Cities before, and recently—at the Minnesota Zoo on June 28, opening for Emmylou Harris. They’re currently touring with the Counting Crows, and the debut album is set to be released on September 11 through Partisan Records. This, and Rolling Stone has already called it: Field Report is on the course to be 2012’s breakout band. Not a bad rep already, even if it has been a long time coming for Chris Porterfield.

Not that anyone listening to the opening band on Friday night would have had any doubts.

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