Ryan Sindler of Private Language let loose a couple chords from his guitar. It was all bassist Matthew Peddle and drummer Nikolai Corey needed to fall, and they were off. Only after the first song did Sindler introduce the band.
“Hello,” he said. “Now let’s go around,” he motioned to the small but enthusiastic audience. No one responded.
“Okay, no names?” Peddle joked.
“Not that kind of crowd?” Sindler joined in. Finally a man seated near the stage relented.
“Hi, my name is Jim,” he said.
“I’m Adam,” someone else yelled.
So began Private Language’s set Tuesday night. Sindler would turn each break between songs into a chance for banter with the audience. But before that, The Forest Room — a.k.a. Matt Streit — gave the audience a set of instrumentals that used a guitar, a series of pedals, some sample of voices and ambient sound, and a drum machine to great effect. Streit turned his guitar into a synthesizer, making string sections, chords that seemed as if they were coming from an organ, rumbling bass, and a range of other timbres. Some songs were almost loungey, music to chill by. Others wouldn’t be out of place in a dance club.
In between songs, he approached the microphone usually only to say “thank you” while the audience clapped. Though he managed to slip in some humor when he announced the title of one of his songs. “This one’s called ‘Alternator,’” he said. “It’s about car trouble.”
That quip was a harbinger for the dry humor to come from Sindler, whether tuning his guitar after a vigorous song (“I just hit this string so hard because it’s my emotions”) or imparting news about the band, which was yet another opportunity to engage the audience.
“I have a dog,” he said, out of nowhere. “It’s like a baby. Nick just got a new car.”
“Dogs are great,” someone said from the audience. “Babies are great, too,” said someone else.
“Who has dogs and who has babies? Everyone shout all at once,” Sindler said. Dogs, said some. Babies, said others. “Both!” said someone.
Sindler’s nonstop joking was an interesting counterpoint to Private Language’s music, a set of originals plus one cover that had an unfussy beauty about them. As a drummer, Corey laid down a supple rhythm that Peddle easily amplified. They left plenty of space for Sindler’s vocals and guitar, an old hollow-bodied instrument with a pleasantly warm, gritty tone that Sindler leaned into occasionally by adding distortion. This provided an interesting texture for melodies that bounced through Sindler’s register in satisfying curlicues, allowing each line, each word, its own place. It marked Private Language as a band that was fun and thoughtful, introspective and engaging, a welcome sound on the Crown Street stage.