Preview: Come for Rogue Wave, stay for folk rock

Midlake and Peter Wolf Crier are well worth a listen, even if Rogue Wave have passed their peak.

There’s a reason Rogue Wave is playing the Westcott this Saturday, and it has nothing to do with Syracuse’s love of mid-tempo indie rock or the proximity of Alto Cinco.

No, Rogue Wave is a band on the outs – in a trough, if you will. Note that they didn’t bless Syracuse with their presence in 2004, when their debut album Out of the Shadow had critics predicting the rise of new radio-ready guitar-pop gods, a la Death Cab for Cutie. They also weren’t here during their peak popularity with The O.C.-set, somewhere between Descended Like Vultures and Asleep at Heaven’s Gate.

But six years later, Rogue Wave has made it to Central New York – and Grand Rapids, MI., Asheville, N.C., and a host of other places that don’t exactly represent the Grade A tour circuit. Credit that to their cringe-worthy fourth album, Permalight, which plays like some cripplingly shy love child of Owl City and The Shins (ex-high school scenesters: remember Mae?). The understated melancholy, the Simon & Garfunkel-esque aptitude for softly layered guitars, the strummed, day-at-the-beach acoustic drift – Rogue Wave traded all their hallmarks for gimmicks and formulae.

Not like that necessarily bodes ill for their upcoming show, where the five-piece will assumedly play material from the entirety of their oeuvre.  “Lake Michigan,” the ascendant, modern rock-charting single off Asleep at Heaven’s Gate, will surely be on the menu; the gorgeous “Publish My Love” and “Eyes” should make appearances, as well.

But ultimately, the most interesting set on Saturday’s schedule may not be the headliner’s. Opening for Rogue Wave are up-and-coming folk acts Midlake and Peter Wolf Crier, both of whom have a fair amount of critical buzz to live up to.

Midlake, who combine serious jazz and '70s rock influences with mournful neo-folk, chart a staid, orchestral course somewhere between Megafaun and Jethro Tull. They started out as the unfortunately named Cornbread All-Stars at the University of North Texas in 1999; 11 years and three albums later, they've been credited with the musical renaissance of Denton, Texas -- to say nothing of the name they've made for vaguely psychadelic, rock-based Americana. NME named their 2006 album The Trials of Vanoccupanther one of the year's best.

Minneapolis-based Peter Wolf Crier have a briefer history, but are in good company thus far -- the duo’s promising debut just dropped on Jagjugawar, the label that Bon Iver, Volcano Choir and Okkervil River also call home. Ramshackle and heartfelt, Inter-be appealed to some sense of heartland nostalgia that most critics didn't seem to know they had. While there's no telling how Brian Moen's shuffling percussion and Peter Pisano's earnest, rough-hewn voice will translate to the live stage, they certainly charm on record.

Syracuse may be getting Rogue Wave long after their peak, but at least the show’s intriguing openers are on their way up.

Rogue Wave, Midlake and Peter Wolf Crier play the Westcott Theater on Saturday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 at the door and $15 presale; see for details.

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