Before the bands took the stage, audience members were already in rhapsody.
“You just walk in and it’s even just the stage itself, without anyone being on it, it kind of takes you away,” said Patrick Marquez, a 21-year-old student from Hickory. “Once the band is on there, it’s like everybody’s a different person. We’re just all connected and it was definitely a rush.”
The stage was occupied on Nov. 17 by two bands, Small Black and Wild Nothing, both of whom have intensely devout followings.
Chelsea Alta Smith, a chef originally from Goldsboro, has been listening to Small Black and Wild Nothing for years and found herself at the concert in an odd, but exciting circumstance.
“I was going to make the five and a half hour trip out here to see them and it just so happened that shit went awry with everything and I was just like, ‘Well, this is my opportunity to move back,’ Smith said. “I took it and here I am.”
As shadows stretched across the floor, audience members began to hug and share a quiet affection with each other when Small Black began their set.
The Brooklyn-based band, which received the label of “chillwave” as of late, slowly began their set of soft, doleful tunes. One of the most beautiful songs, “No Stranger,” told the story of a person drifting through the memories of someone they want to get to know.
“Tell me where you thought you saw me, tell me why you asked my name, tell me how you’ve come to be in this place,” lead singer Josh Kolenik sang. “You’re no stranger, you’re no stranger to me.”
As the band played their hits “Canoe” and “Pictures of You,” the audience reception became increasingly positive, with even the occasional hipster beginning to dance.
The atmosphere did not change significantly when Wild Nothing took the stage. Somber admissions of love for The Smiths and Joy Division could be heard by audience members hovering along the balcony and the melancholy influence of both bands are easily reflected in Wild Nothing’s sound.
Wells Alewine, a graphic designer originally from Greenville, South Carolina, was quick to throw out comparisons to other bands he knew.
“Tangerine Dream, sort of close to Can, way better than Grizzly Bear and badass, but it’s a little bit short of Here We Go Magic,” Alewine said, hastily.
It seems as if individuals are quick to reference other bands when describing Wild Nothing’s sound, but what makes them truly unique is they marry all of these influences together and build them into something new, something hip, something modern. While the band does stick to their dream-pop, synth aesthetic, lately they have incorporated a live string element to their music that adds another layer to their wistful sound, specifically on the song “Shadow.”
Their music makes one want to cling to the sadness of yesterday, to hold it, to expose it, but to also remain cheerful tomorrow is around the corner.
As the band members arrived slowly on stage, dressed in nondescript, neutral attire, they slowly built their way into a set that was warm if not the expected hint of sad.
One of their most delicate and thought-provoking songs, the Smiths-like “Live in Dreams,” is yearning and pensive, about a world where reality pales in comparison to the silence of sleep.
“Our lips won’t last forever and that’s exactly why, I’d rather live in dreams and I’d rather die,” lead-singer Jack Tatum sang.
As the audience became slowly more awake into what felt like the belly of a dream, the atmosphere became optimistic and slowly uplifting. As they played songs like “Paradise,” a positive ditty about how falling in love is truly something good, a few people stuck to themselves while others huddled energetically together.
Wild Nothing is the brainchild of Tatum, who serves as songwriter, lead singer and guitarist behind the scenes in the studio. When performing, however, he takes a band with him, as was the case in Asheville at The Orange Peel.
A sort of side project beginning in his college dorm room, Wild Nothing became nothing short of indie royalty since releasing the album Gemini in 2010.
The audience, mostly composed of hip, young 20-somethings, has a deep connection with the band. Eli Arteaga, a student originally from Hickory, was grateful for the group’s dedication to playing their older tunes.
“I’ve been listening to them since middle school. The best part of the show was ‘Paradise,’” Arteaga said. “When ‘Paradise’ started, I remember listening to that song so much as a kid and it has so much nostalgia, so much good feelings.”
As audience members drifted out slowly in a euphoric stupor, those who had never been to Asheville’s most famous music venue before talked jubilantly about their first experience.
“The Orange Peel is kind of almost a being in and of itself in my opinion. You just come in here and it feels so alive,” Marquez said. “It’s something about it that oozes out. It’s something about its character. I’m never going to forget this place.”