Kris Orlowski’s got one of the most memorable voices in Seattle right now. Sometimes, it’s like a favorite wool sweater–appealingly scratchy and comfortably warm in equal parts. Other times, it imbues whatever song it augments with a sense of hard-earned, rough-hewn gravitas. So it’s only natural that his headlining turn at the Triple Door last Thursday tapped into that combination of raggedness and coziness in equal measure.
The catalyst was a Gigs4Good show earmarked to benefit Climate Solutions, an Olympia-based organization dedicated to staving off global warning through community action (the organization’s focal point for the night: Blocking massive shipments of environmentally-hazardous coal throughout the Northwest). And while there was a goodly share of pulpit declamation on behalf of the cause, it never overshadowed the music.
Orlowski surrounded himself with a pretty amazing backing band that cradled the songs empathetically when they needed to (violinist Andrew Joslyn lent dusky coloring to quieter numbers like “Small is Beautiful”). They also had no problem kicking up dust towards the set’s end (bassist Scott Schrock got damned near funky in places). The ensemble probably shone brightest on a cover of The Cure’s “In Between Days,” transforming that goth-pop chestnut into a lushly-rootsy waltz. Orlowski’s frequent vocal collaborator Dawn Mitschele contributed a solid opening set and provided disarmingly beautiful harmonies in contrast to Orlowski’s affecting rasp.
Great as it all was, though, the closing number–delivered off-mic and in sing-along campfire fashion–provided the most affecting moment of the night. Accompanying himself and his bandmates on an unamplified acoustic guitar, Kris Orlowski transformed one of Seattle’s swankier clubs into an old-school revival house. And if there was a hint of winter chill, that wonderful wool sweater of a voice thawed it, but quick.