Thursday, October 4, 2012

October 03, 2012 Katie Pearlman and Seth Glier

Last night Katie Pearlman and Seth Glier came to Acoustic Long Island. Katie while sincere with a quick smile and a generous heart, her songs were simply prose put to music. Each song was a story, but each story was told as if it were copied verbatim out of a journal. Dylan, Young, Mitchell are all wonderful story tellers because their stories transcend the literal and reach for the poetic, giving each song a resonance that far out weighs the story itself and thereforee speaks to a deeper truth. Katie should learn from them. Seth Glier brought Broadway to Deepwells. His voice, suitable for the stage, was clear and crisp. His songs were dynamic and exciting. His style was animated and brimming with emotion. Whether he was playing the guitar or the keyboard, his whole body communicated every note. Accompanied on the guitar by his close friend, the two were tightly wound together, sharing their mutual admiration through the back and forth voice of their instruments. Seth claims that in these desperate times, the audience is looking for someone to speak for them. If only we could speak like Seth. One song about “plastic soldiers,” portrayed the plight of a disabled idealistic soldier returning from war. This song demonstrated Seth’s willingness to risk everything to tell the right story, knowing that as he balanced on that emotional tightrope, he could easily fall flat. He soared instead. We’ll be hearing more from Seth Glier.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

08/01/12 Caleb Hawley

Caleb Hawley came to Deepwells last night for the third or fourth time and it was well worth the trip. Caleb is a funny, energetic, and talented musician. He’s a dog lover as well as his dog Fargo can attest. His guitar playing is expressive and jazz inspired, but his lyrics are a reflection of an observant mind that finds humor and pathos in the human condition. In Do You Want to Live Forever he faces head on the dilemma of eternal life vs. eternal death. In We All Got Problems he pokes fun at our infinite capacity to do anything to resist pain and emotional suffering, even if it means losing sight of who we are as uniquely flawed individuals. He references the tragic figures of Elvis and Michael as the purest expression of having it all and having nothing. In Seeing Colors Caleb expresses surprise and admiration at children’s inability to recognize skin color, the bane of American life that tragically pits Sarah Palin’s “the real Americans” against the rest of us who just “want to get along.” It’s a testimony to Caleb that he has taken up residence in Harlem which still dramatically signifies that racial divide that keeps the poor separated from the “1%-ers” who are now busily driving the last vestiges of the middle class out of Manhattan. The Harlem experience keeps Caleb “real” when so many musicians are nothing more than product placement and brand names as they reach for that “gold ring” with their specialty lines of clothing and perfume. In Who’s Your Doggie Caleb takes on man’s best friend and points out that deep inside most men wish it was “a dog’s life” and wish that our significant other would give us unconditional love no matter how many times we screw up. We don’t need American Idol. Last night we had Caleb Hawley in the house.

09/05/12 Emiy Elbert and The Stray Birds

Every time you think you’ve seen the best of the best in up and coming talent, Dave manages to outdo himself. Last night Emily Elbert took the stage and within four bars we knew that we were looking at a great artist. Her singing voice was beautiful and rich. Her guitar playing masterful. Her songs intelligent and haunting. Her acoustic jazz and folk blend left you wondering where she will go next and how lucky am I to have gotten a chance to see her in this intimate setting before her career takes off in leaps and bounds. She bounced around the stage, pivoted and cavorted with a plucky kind of energy that can only make you feel good about being alive. The Stray Birds were a complete surprise. People like to talk about the “real America”. But who would have thought that the heartland begins in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They channel the best of blue grass and folk in a manner that kept your feet dancing and your hands clapping. How many times do you get to hear a band where each member can sing and play more than one instrument? Much like The Band each of them effortlessly took their turn at the mike, but because their harmonies are so intricately intertwined and the musicianship so interconnected the voice they created was always multidimensional and richly textured sound. The way they huddled together for every song as if they were one person was a delight to behold. While their songs are steeped in tradition, they are deeply connected to our contemporary experience. The audience couldn’t get enough.

08/30/12 Miles to Dayton

Last night in Port Jefferson we got to hear Miles to Dayton meet Ken Kesey and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Due to technical difficulties the band ala The Grateful Dead were forced to go into long musical interludes while Jon Preddice tried to root out the offending monitor. This left Dave March and Leanne Strom, Brian Kroll and their equally talented lead guitarist to improvise, or as the Dead might call it, meander in search of Uncle John’s Band. Finally, after Jon, frustrated and dogged, fixed the problem, the band rose to the occasion as a blue moon rose and the sun set, giving the audience what they had come for, another great performance. It was the largest audience to date at the Wednesday night concert series of Port Jeff Arts Council.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 14 Barnaby Bright, Ernie Halter, Antigone Rising, Toby Walker

What a great night for Acoustic Long Island. The Seventh Annual Summer Concert was better than ever. The night kicked off with Barnaby Bright. Becky’s voice was pitch perfect and beautiful. Her husband Nathan’s guitar energetically soared as he beamed with an infectious smile that lived up to the group’s name. Ernie Halter followed with shades of Stevie Wonder with his soulful voice. Antigone Rising blew the doors off Deepwell’s Mansion. Nini Camps vocals made the band a true headliner that lifted the summer concert to another level.Cathy Henderson on lead guitar tore a page out of the Allman brothers. Toby Walker ended the night. Determined not to be outdone, he stepped to the edge of the stage and dazzled the audience with his fiery fingers and his irreverent songs. Toby may call himself a blues player, but he always leaves the audience awed and smiling. Thanks Dave Dircks and company.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

11/02/11 Micah & Jean-Paul Vest's Last Charge of the Light Horse

In the last concert of the 2011 season, Micah and Jean-Paul Vest’s Last Charge of the Light Horse played at the Deepwells’ Mansion for Acoustic Long Island. The night started off with an over the top comedic spoof on the new I-phone apps, revealing a side of the host Dave Dircks that proved he’s ready for prime time standup.

Micah, a young performer, with a wonderful rich voice and an affable style performed the first set with charm and poise. His songs very quickly, while covering the themes of romance, lost love and regret, all seemed to blend into one another indistinguishably. There were none of the highs and the lows that you would expect from a musician who truly does have a voice, a rarity in the folk world. Yet instead of using the full range of what is undoubtedly there, he often sang at the top of his register as if to authenticate emotion, rather than take us on a musical emotional roller coaster ride. His rendition of Killing me Softly probably gave the first clear indication of what he could do with a song even though who can top Roberta Flack. His final song, coauthored with his college roommate was more textured which made me wonder if collaborating might lift him out of a musical rut where he can chart new territory and reach a wider more deserving audience.

Jean-Paul Vest’s Last Charge of the Light Horse brought to Acoustic Long Island one of the best shows in a long time. I don’t know why I thought of Lou Reed sings Tim Buckley or if the comparison is apt, but it stuck with me. Jean-Paul Vest is one of the more intelligent song writers out there. He has the poet’s true gift of turning the mundane, the ordinary, the daily ups and downs of life that we all face and transforming them into heartfelt songs. An ATM machine, the automobile, New Years Eve, all instantly become poetic images and iconography that resonate for the listener in a manner that only a gifted artist’s brush can accomplish. Jean-Paul Vest has a rich palette from which to draw which is contrasted, almost ironically, by his monochromatic singing style. I wondered at times if his bassist, who joined in occasionally could have added more detailed harmonic richness. Regardless, the band was top notch, totally in sync with each other and with Jean-Paul Vest looking like a cross between Buddy Holly and James Dean. The music was driving and exhilarating. Instantly, the audience was transported into a better place through lyrics that were consistently rich and haunting, self-reflective and honest. Each song honored the daily human struggle that wears us down in our pedestrian lives, but which are desperately in need of recognition and edification. Songs like Get Away Car and The Second Time Around and The New Year all deserve second and third listens because there is something to be learned not only about the artist, but about yourself.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

10/05/11 Jack's Waterfall & Flearoy

Jack’s Waterfall headed up by singer/songwriter Jack Licitra came to Deepwells to share his energy, excitement and sense of humor. The music became non-stop theatre with his motley crew of musicians: a tuba player, Jon Preddice on cello, a young female high school senior and a percussionist who played not only drums, but pvc tubing. If Jack Licitra’s goal was to make the audience part of his band then he aptly accomplished that. If Jack Licitra believes that paying homage to his muse adds a transcendent mystical dimension to the creative process, then, in the final analysis, the lyrics seemed rather bland and unimaginative as each song very quickly blended seamlessly into each other until they disappeared from memory. If, indeed, as John announced, music is a healing art form, then he, like an evangelical preacher who makes bold promises and wild claims that he is filled by the spirit, then the audience can only leave energized, but still broken.

Flearoy, which I assume is a tongue-in-cheek take off on Leroy, came onto the stage at Deepwells like an unassuming collection of street musicians dressed in plaid who just happened to be passing through St. James on their way to somewhere else—and that somewhere else just might be fame and fortune. It’s hard to know where to begin. Jon Seale on vocals, at first seemed too much for one person to bear the weight of, but like other soul and blues singers, Bill Withers, Wilson Pickett, and John Fogerty, Jon Seale, in perfect pitch, quickly became the heart and soul of the band. Zack Rosen on bass had to be the most inventive stand up bass that I’ve heard in a long time. What he did on standup bass almost served as lead guitar and percussionist as he riffed off Dan Knobler (looking like a young Bob Dylan) on lead guitar who never stopped playing that American steel guitar which has the risk of sounding tinny, but which always soared in his hands without overshadowing the rest of the band. Flearoy sang a mix of their own songs and few covers ended the night with a rousing rendition of The Band’s Ophelia. Matt Porter, who I sensed has a good voice in his own right but who adopted the harmonium rather than his instrument the electronic keyboard, was never given his chance to shine, should be brought back into the band. Flearoy deserves a second, third and fourth listen.