Friday, September 05, 2008


Ceol agus ól

It’s a very music-filled few days, around here. On Wednesday, I saw the Wood Brothers, with opening act Carsie Blanton, at Fairfield Theatre’s StageOne; yesterday I made last-minute decision to see Los Lonely Boys, with opening act Dave Barnes, at Peekskill’s Paramount theatre; and tonight I’ll be going to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que to see a friend, guitarist Joe Henderson (no, not the late saxophone player), play with his band.

In order....

Carsie Blanton is a young folk-style singer, currently living in Philadelphia. She has a quiet manner and a sweet voice, and her songs were pleasant. Unfortunately, she played to very few people — most of the audience didn’t arrive ’til the break, opting to come just for the Wood Brothers. That’s a pity: we knew about the Wood Brothers because my friends had seen them open for Joan Osborne some months ago. If you miss the opening acts, you miss the chance to discover someone you might really like. (And I like to tell the story of seeing Yes in 1972, with an opening act that we hadn’t heard of yet: the Eagles, who had just released their first album.)

The Wood Brothers are an immensely interesting duo, whose music is hard to classify. Oliver plays guitar and Chris plays string bass... but not like you’ve heard or seen it before. Chris drums on his instrument, and sometimes attacks the strings, for unusual musical effects. You can hear some music on their web site — listen to “Lovin’ Arms”, “Twisted”, and “Spirit” for a good taste of their variety (assuming those songs are still there when you look). It’s not for everybody, I think, but it definitely was for us.

Dave Barnes was a good opening act, and I enjoyed his music a lot. I’d call it blues/rock, and it fit well as an opener for Los Lonely Boys, and in some ways I liked him more than I liked them (see below). I think I’ll be watching for him in the future.

So, the first issue I had with Los Lonely Boys was that the break between Dave Barnes and them was about 40 minutes. That’s just too long. And to make that worse, 15 or 20 minutes of that time was used to do sound checks, as crew banged on the instruments and turned up the volume. I’m sorry: that’s poor. The sound checks should have been done earlier, when we weren’t there. Professionals know how to do sound checks in empty halls, and how to compensate for the crowd. We shouldn’t have been subjected to that. And, again, 40 minutes is way too long for a break.

But, finally, the band came on. And they were... loud. Maybe I’m just getting old — I must be, because the crowd loved them. And I’ve done “loud” before, certainly. In the same venue, The Band was also loud, as were Los Lobos and Beausoleil. But with those acts, I enjoyed the music, though it was loud. Here, it seemed to be just loud, to the point that it drowned itself out. I lost the melodies, I lost the words, the music didn’t sing to me... it was just bashing drums and a constant wail that all sounded the same.

Los Lonely Boys playing 'Heaven'A few times, they’d start a song and it would have the qualities that I was looking for, that I heard on their albums. “Great!”, I’d think, “They’ve finished making noise, and they’re going to play their music now!” But after a bit of intro, they’d crank it up and go back to the indistinguishable wail. Sigh.

It was a good wail, and I don’t mean to give the impression that I hated it. I just wasn’t wild about it, and didn’t like it nearly as much as I would have had I been able to distinguish the songs and really hear them. They finished their set, thanked the audience, went off stage, and then came back to add their biggest hit, “Heaven”. The crowd, of course, went wild, and the band did a great job of that song — loud, also, to be sure, but now we had one that was distinguishable, and that one could really sing and dance along with. (The picture at the right was taken during that song, with my BlackBerry.)

Tonight, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and Joe Henderson. And I’ll actually eat there this time. Joe plays there from time to time, but I’ve often seen him the Friday night after Thanksgiving, when a bunch of us have stuffed ourselves on leftovers, and arrive with no appetite. Tonight we’ll get there earlier and eat, and then Joe and his band will come on at 10. They play blues and rock, with Joe on lead guitar, and they do a good job. I’m looking forward to it, as I always do.

By the way, the title is Irish for “music and drink”, a phrase often written on Irish pubs. For the ól part:

  1. The Fairfield Theatre serves Magic Hat beers, mmmm!
  2. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I need say no more.


Anonymous said...

Wow - about Los Lonely Boys, I thought they were great!!!

Barry Leiba said...

Yeah... so did everyone. I think I'm just getting old.


Lisa Simeone said...

You know it's pretty standard for rockers to lose at least 30% of their hearing by the time they're 40, right?

So maybe you're getting old, but at least you can still hear. When they're your age, they won't be able to.