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Hoco Fest Night One, Hotel Congress, Aug. 31

His name has the ring of myth. So, too, does his music.

There's enough sound coming from his rhythmically intricate guitar style and the force of his voice to make The Tallest Man on Earth seem like more than just one man on a stage. Swedish folksinger Kristian Matsson writes songs that seem instantly timeless, with a captivating poetic style that relies on imagery of nature.

Matsson opened on electric guitar, playing the lead track to this year's excellent There's No Leaving Now. "To Just Grow Away" is explicitly a rain song, with lyrics that blend in a sense of yearning that goes far beyond just needing rain.

Matsson switched to acoustic guitar for "1904," a furiously strummed song that takes a detached look at death. He turned to the piano for "There's No Leaving Now," a song that likens death to a danger passing.

Introducing "Criminals," Matsson joked that it's a song about the 1990s and him loving a Madonna record. "King of Spain," from 2010's The Wild Hunt, induced the crowd to sing along. His set was a fairly even mix of all his albums, and Matsson closed the night back on the piano for a somber rendition of "The Dreamer."

On the club stage, Wild Nothing had the crowd bouncing with its dance-ready synth rock, sounding a bit like 1980s Brit-rock, somewhere in between The Smiths and New Order.

Strand of Oaks was impressive with a spare yet bombastic performance. Tim Showalter plays a haunting and dark folk music, but live he and a drummer crank things up with a hard-rock energy.

The early part of the night was filled with those spontaneous moments of collision that are so fun at festivals: David Garza's impromptu drafting of some Modeens as his band (on Saturday, he brought Camilo Lara, Sergio Mendoza and Marco Rosano onstage); Phoenix's Lonna Kelley, a new addition herself to Giant Giant Sand, inviting Golden Boots' Ryen Eggleston, as well as Andrew Collberg and Jon Villa, to join in; and the quietly operatic voice of Wolf Larsen closing her set with a cover of The Tallest Man On Earth's "Like the Wheel."

More by Eric Swedlund

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