Field Report at Pabst: A Review
“Folk” is not a word I lovingly throw around. A genre that once symbolized American tradition and roots, it now leaves a bad Mumford-ized taste in my mouth, and seemingly, the mouths of many. The ebb and flow of trends, the social and cultural relevance behind the manifestation of them fascinates me. Folk music is no exception, as it has inadvertently bloomed into one massive, Urban Outfitters flannel shirt bearing little to no legitimacy.
Field Report played at The Pabst on Thursday, Oct. 29. Field Report is not folk music, although vocalist Chris Porterfield fully acknowledged the band’s tendency toward that categorization. Prior to the show, I found myself cringe at describing it that way, but again, that lackluster stamp seemed to be the trend. After a couple cozy hours with them at Pabst, I came to realize the incredible disservice that label does to Field Report’s music.
Porterfield is a storyteller. The lyrics are literary, highly sensory, almost visual portrayals of sights and sounds that have played a personal significance in his life. I’ve read before that his conscious mentions of less-than-glamorous Midwest places have provided a small-town audience something more relatable, whereas most artists pick bigger cities that cater to the masses. For someone who grew up in Milwaukee, this is absolutely delightful.
Field Report played a slew of songs from both albums: its debut self-titled from 2012 and “Marigolden” from 2014. Porterfield took the stage solo for several acoustic versions, including a mellowed-down “The Year of The Get You Alone,” a personal favorite that narrates alcoholism, affairs and the perpetual money struggle.
I guess this show and band at large begs the question, “Is this relevant for a national audience?” Here we have a locally renowned guy singing about his tough times in the Midwest. My answer is yeah, totally. I think anyone who has either grown up in a traditionally unsexy area understands how it creates you, makes you tough and puts its own weird little stamp on your heart. Small cities are earnest; their bones are laid bare without the glitz and glamour as a façade. Field Report is a lot like this—a sincere, small package of most incredible value.