If you're going to be weird, then it helps to be good. If you're going to wail and flail, forcing people to either come with you or sit ther gawking, then you need to hit all the notes and include moments of exquisite beauty. Local rock trio Umbrella Tree manage all those things. Artsy, quirky, dramatic - maybe even a little spastic - this band's dynamic balance and emotional intensity remain relatable. Both guitarist Zachary Gresham and keyboardist Jillian Franklin (who pass singing duties back and forth) have expressive, musical voices that prevent their sound from ever veering toward farce. Their songs are atmospheric collections of bizarre images drawing on offbeat themes - Gresham's "Bat's in the Belfry" sounds a bit like your crazy old uncle playing an out-of-tune piano in the attic, but in a charming gothic way. That's the thing about this band: they're idiosyncratic, at times dissonant and often strange, but never boring-especially onstage, where they perform with the reckless energy of a high-speed chase.
Listening to Umbrella Tree is a commitment with no easy outs. That's partially because singer/guitarist Zachary Gresham, singer/keyboardist Jillian Leigh and drummer Derek Pearson completely give themselves over to their live performances—Gresham acting the part of the wiry, animated ringmaster, Leigh the mysterious, girlish coquette and Pearson the focused brute with the precise touch.
And the other reason? The three of them never, ever break character or signal that they're being ironic. That would let audience members off the hook, and give them the smug satisfaction of being in on the joke—if it were a joke.