Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Always Once Upon a Time in New York City - The Outlaw Roadshow Recap

As October rolled on, it brought with it my semi-annual musical vacation. On October 16th, I found myself on a cross-country flight from Sea-Tac to JFK, Seattle to New York City, for yet another Outlaw Roadshow at the Bowery Electric. It had been way too long since the last one, seven months ago during SXSW in Austin, and I was more than ready for a few days of non stop music. This year the showcase had been expanded to three days, a day more then both Austin and last year's New York showcase. The line up over the three days included 30 bands, some I didn't know, but also several of whom I had seen at past Roadshows, who over the last year and a half have become not only some of my favorite bands, but also friends, and some of my most favorite people. Ryan Spaulding and Adam Duritz chose 30 remarkable bands this time around. The line-up at these shows just keeps getting better and better.
Daniel and the Lion
Kicking off the three day music showcase was a special VIP set from one of my favorite bands, Daniel and the Lion. Backed with a full band, Daniel and the Lion put on an amazing show. If you leave a set from Daniel and the Lion and hadn't been brought to tears at least once, you have no soul. Singer Jimmie Linville is an amazing songwriter, and when he sings it brings chills down your spine. His band mates fed off of his intensity and played a perfect set. A bit later that night Daniel and the Lion played a second, if not more brilliant set on the stage downstairs. During both sets the band was joined by Monica Martin (PHOX) on backing vocals. Her voice adds the perfect balance to Jimmie's. Every song they played was a favorite, but the stand out picks for me were Flash Flood, which is the song that Adam Duritz shared all those months ago that got me hooked on Daniel and the Lion, and Free Love, a song that until this show I hadn't heard live from the band, but was totally worth the wait. The audience completely embraced the song, joining in singing the chorus. This is a band I just can't seem to get enough of.

The next band I saw was Chicago's Fort Francis. I had missed their set at the Outlaw Roadshow in Austin, but over the last couple months had become a big fan of their song City By The Sea, so I was looking forward to seeing their set. Although they didn't play that song that night, their set was fantastic. From start to finish I was so into their sound I don't think I moved from where I stood. While their sound is modern, they also have a distinctively classic sound, akin to singer/songwriter bands from the 70s (the Eagles come to mind)

Golden Bloom Outlaw sing-a-long
Another favorite of mine, Golden Bloom, played the first of their two sets of the weekend that night. The set Thursday night was an acoustic set, while the set Saturday afternoon was "plugged in." Singer/Songwriter Shawn Fogel has proven himself over and over to be one of the best songwriters out there these days. During both sets they played old favorites, newer favorites, and new songs from their up-coming full length record. One of the new songs that they debuted in their sets is Circles Round My Mind, a song which I am completely in love with. The second new song, Searching for Sunlight, on day one included an Outlaw sing-a-long, featuring fellow outlaw's joining Golden Bloom on the tiny stage, and on day three brought Golden Bloom out into the main bar floor to sing/play amongst the crowd.
I caught a couple songs from Doctor Gasp's set that first night. He was highly entertaining. Doctor Gasp brought Halloween rock to the Bowery Electric that night. Dressed in costume with Halloween decorations on the stage, Doctor Gasp sang songs fitting with the spooky time of year, about vampires and other such ghouls. If you're having a Halloween party and need some new music for it, check out his new record Vampire Fish for Two.
Dr. Gasp

Later on that night I caught the set from Austin's Nakia. If any of you watched The Voice, you may know Nakia from season 1, but I know him as the singer who totally blew the roof off The Bowery Electric that night. Nakia's voice is as big as he is. The soul and feeling behind it shines in full force when he opens his mouth. Before that night I hadn't really listened to Nakia's music, but now I'm a fan. He's also a super nice guy. Just check out his new EP, Down in the Crimson Tide and you'll see exactly what I mean. His song Dream Big is absolutely beautiful, and his cover of George Michael's I Want Your Sex was the best thing ever.

After Nakia was a set from Philly's Toy Soldiers. Their fierce blend of rock fueled country, with a twist of soulful bluesy-ness, set fire to what was left of the club after Nakia blew the roof off. The band has been labeled by USA Today as one of the “Top Bands to Watch in 2013,” and after their set, I can totally see why. After listening through their new record, The Maybe Boys, this band is one that I intend to keep an eye on.

Toy Soldiers
Following Toy Soldiers came one of the greatest things about The Outlaw Roadshow: a special set from Sonic Cow Grunt. This was the second Roadshow appearance from the four piece band. The identity of the members of this band were kept as secret as possible until mid-afternoon. Those in attendance at last year's show knew who they were, but those who didn't know that Sonic Cow Grunt was really Counting Crows were in for a great surprise. It's no big secret that Counting Crows is my favorite band, so having this happen, seeing the band in this small, super intimate setting was just the best. The band (Immy, Dan, Adam and Charlie) took the stage around 1am, and played an amazing thirteen song set.

The set not only included classic Crow's favorites, such as Goodnight Elizabeth, A Long December, Hospital, Richard Manuel is Dead, Friend of the Devil and Blues Run the Game, but also three NEW, yes kids, new Counting Crows songs, Scarecrow, God of Ocean Times and Cover up the Sun. These new songs are brilliant. According to Adam, they're planning on going into the studio in December, with a new record hopefully out sometime next year. This is very exciting. Though really, I think the best part of their set was Rain King. Adam inviting fellow Outlaws up to the stage to sing with them, and were joined by members of Daniel and the Lion, Golden Bloom, Nakia, and Matt Sucich. In typical Crow's fashion, Adam dropped down in the middle of the song and inserted another, this time it was a song everyone knew, a song everyone learned growing up, the classic American folk song Oh Susanna. Having the whole room singing along, not only to Rain King, but then also to Oh Susanna was a mind blowing experience. I could feel the energy in the room, everyone was singing, everyone was having a good time. It's moments like this that change your life.
(watch the video here. Do it. I'll wait. It's worth it, I promise:)

**Keep scrolling, there's more after the giant pictures**
Adam & Dan

Immy & Charlie
Shawn Fogel, Matt Sucich, Immy
Daniel Pingrey, Dan, Jimmie Linville, Adam, Dan McMahon, Nakia
Day 2 of the Roadshow was kicked off by Coyote Kolb. They got the room rocking with their Southern swamp rock, which is a bit odd being that they are from Boston, but it totally works. After Coyote Kolb was a band that put on what I'd have to say was my favorite set for the day, and one of the best of the weekend: Tallahassee. I had missed Tallahassee's set in Austin, and was really looking forward to their set in New York. I had recently discovered their song Minor Blues III, which though it had been on my ipod since March, didn't really get played until a few weeks ago, but I really, really love it. The band's country-rock sound filled and captivated the room, song after song getting better and better. They ended their set with Minor Blues III which was pretty awesome. I almost didn't want their set to end, I could have listened to them play all day, but alas, there were more bands to hear that day.

Mean Creek
Next up was Archie Powell & the Exports, a band which I really, really wanted to enjoy, I liked the sample song that was provided on the Outlaw Roadshow website, but I don't know if it was the venue, of if it was just the band's live performance, but I just didn't get that into it. Maybe it was a but to power pop for me, maybe it was a little too close to punk music, maybe it was a combination on all these things, I don't know. But like I said, I like the recordings, but there was just something about the band's live performance. Mean Creek, is kinda along the same lines. I LOVE their records, and I do enjoy their live show as well, but again, it's almost too punk for me (I'm really not a fan of punk music. I will not apologize for that.) I think in the right situation, under the right conditions, Mean Creek is a hell of a band. Their last record, Youth Companion was truly brilliant. The crowd really dug Mean Creek's set, I too enjoyed it, it was just about as much as I could handle.

K Phillips
One of my favorite groups was up next. K Phillips & The Concho Pearls. All the way from Austin, Texas, K Phillips brings his A game to every Roadshow. This being his third visit to the Outlaw stage, K's shows never fail to leave a smile on your face. His country twang and thoughtful lyrics make him a total joy to see play. With songs about losing a girl to Bob Ross, yes, the painter, (Does it Hold Water) to probably the best song about sex in the history of songs about sex (The Rambler) K will keep you singing along till the end.

The last band on day 2 was Jessie Malin, who is actually one of the owners of the Bowery Electric. He was backed with a full band that night, playing songs from his extensive catalog. Jessie Malin has been a staple in the New York music scene for decades, starting out playing CGBG when he was just 12 years old. I had no idea who Jessie Malin was coming into this show, but the audience sure did. I think there may have been just as many people there for him as there were for the Counting Crows the night before, if not more, really. Malin was so full of energy, and put on a good show. Some of his music was just a little much for me, leaning too much to the punk persuasion, but as a showman he was great. It was a great way to end the night, that's for sure.

The third and final day of the Outlaw Roadshow NYC was opened by Eddie Japan. I'm not exactly sure what genre to put Eddie Japan into. They are rock and roll for sure, Ryan Spaulding calls them "cinematic rock". Listening to them play you definitely feel like you're listening to a movie soundtrack, like an old west movie, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, when they're driving through the desert. In the near future I intend to get their record and listen to them more, I really enjoyed their set.

Runaway Dorothy
Another favorite band of mine played next on the main stage downstairs: Runaway Dorothy. The alt-country ensemble from Brooklyn played an exceptional set, with songs from their first record The Arc and also songs from their upcoming release, The Wait. Runaway Dorothy was one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing that week, as it had been last October when I last saw them play. They exceeded my expectations for sure. Their set was so good. Every song they played was amazing. Favorites such as Abilene and Hard Way Home got the room excited, and new songs such as Hurry and Victory kept them there. The band's cover of This Train is Bound for Glory is one of the greatest things I've ever heard. Each member of the band takes a turn singing a verse, Dave, Brett, Warren, Kenji, and finally, Evan, who frankly, steals the song, wins the song if you will. Everyone in the room was singing a long with the chorus, another awesome moment. I love things like that. I love when everyone is in the same musical moment. It makes me happy. Runaway Dorothy makes me happy.

Boom Forest
Back upstairs I caught most of Boom Forest's set. John Paul Roney, accompanied by members of Foreign
Fields (who were playing a set later than afternoon, which sadly I missed) was one of the most beautiful things I'd heard in a long time. His songs were folky, told stories; all around goodness really. Listening to his Daytrotter session I'm reminded of John Denver, or Cat Stevens, only better.

After Boom Forest was the second set of the week from Golden Bloom. But since I talked about that earlier, I won't go much into that, except to say that I really love Golden Bloom and you should too. Check out their music, it's all really, really good.

I stayed upstairs for the next couple sets. The next band was OldBoy. OldBoy is managed by my friend, Nick Mishko, who also manages Runaway Dorothy, so I had to stay and watch their set. I was excited to hear them. Before that day I had listened to one of their songs, and I liked it, but after their set, I LOVED them. The four piece band, fronted by singer Shawn Brewster, and backed by Michael Kinsella, on a two-string bass, Pete Simon on guitar and Greg Hyland on drums, combines folk, rock and country into one spectacular musical package. I was, but at the same time, wasn't surprised by how much I enjoyed every part of their show. I will admit that their song Run nearly brought me to tears. There was just something about the lyrics that hit me. Go listen to the song here, and buy the record on iTunes.

Dan Nicklin of OldJack
After Oldboy we continued the theme and saw a stripped down set from Outlaw Roadshow favorite, OldJack. Like with Runaway Dorothy, it had been a year since I had seen OldJack perform. Lead singer Dan Nicklin did join Mellow Bravo on stage in Austin, but the band didn't play. Their set was "stripped down" meaning just Nicklin on vocals and guitar, being backed by about half his usual band. OldJack played a few songs from their first EPGone Before You Know, and from their White Label Single Series, and also a bunch of new songs. These new songs are fantastic. They seem a bit deeper and darker than previous stuff, but still really good. After hearing the new songs that day, I am very eagerly awaiting the release of a new OldJack record.

Downstairs The Field Effect was finishing up their last song. Though I missed nearly all of their set, what I heard was an incendiary example of Boston rock and roll. After their set Ryan Spaulding thanked and acknowledged all those involved in The Outlaw Roadshow, and then it was time for final hugs, thank you's and goodbyes.

That wasn't the end of my whirlwind musical vacation; there was one more show. I walked a few block away to the Living Room, where Little Brave was playing a solo show in their upstairs lounge. She had played bass with K Philips & The Concho Pearls the night before, and as Little Brave is one of my favorite singers/songwriters, and also a friend, I had to go see her play. The show was just Steph (Little Brave) and her baritone ukulele, but that's when she is at her best. After the show Little Brave, K, Tim & Candyce Slusher and I all had one last NYC dinner, then I caught a cab to the airport for my early morning flight home.

To quote Trampled By Turtles song Widower's Heart, "New York was a rough place that treated me well."
It really was an amazing week, an amazing experience. For those involved, The Outlaw Roadshow is more than just a music showcase; it's become a family, an ever expanding family, growing with every showcase. I really love that I have become part of the family. I have had a hard year, and I truly don't know where I'd be if I didn't have all of this. I'm not one that generally gets mushy or sappy or anything, but I will say that I do feel blessed that The Outlaw Roadshow, and all the people, bands and friends I've found along the way are in my life. I can hardly wait to do it all again in just five months. See you all in Austin.

For another recap of the week, check out my friend Katie's blog:

                                                And now for time more pictures.

Me & Adam Duritz

Me & Shawn Fogel (doing "the Duritz")

Pete Simon, Me, Shawn Brewster, Michel Kinsella (Oldboy)

Me with Oldboy & Ryan Spaulding

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