Daniel Lefkowitz - A guy comes out with acoustic guitar, harmonica and heads to the mic. Certainly, this formula is tried and true and tonight the formula was followed. Lefkowitz had a nice resonant voice and belted out his folk songs with feeling. His guitar playing was not flashy and it may not have helped with how lightly it was mic'ed. There was a soft dullness to it. He had some tuning issues early (see below) but he had good personality throughout, so it went over well. His 25 minutes were well spent and there were some nice songs. "The Battle Hymn of the Hopeless Liberal" had some really awkward phrasing, but I think that was intentional as it really brought out some interesting humor. Songs like that could elevate this guy into bigger audiences. Nice opener.
Bobby - I thought we were going to get another acoustic outing, but instead Bobby was a full band with Vocal/guitar, Bass, keyboards, Drums, percussion, female vocals. There was a lot of instrument shifting and the two vocalists traded leads and worked together well. Early, there was some off kilter pop which was quite interesting. It sort of married new wave pop with a Joanna Newsome and Devandra Banhart duet. But more of the songs went into a dreary, yet edgy slow moving groove. A bit of amp buzzing was distracting, but the set was interesting. For a half hour, this was a nice set. For longer, I would have liked a bit more variety like they showed in the second song.
The Low Anthem - This was a band that I have heard of often enough, but have not really listened to much at all. I enjoy going into shows cold and just see what happens. Well, tonight was a pleasant surprise as I thought this band delivered a lovely 90-minute set. They began as a quarter huddled around a microphone singing with just an acoustic guitar and bit of clarinet. From then on, I am not sure they ever used the exact instruments in the same combination in a single song. They even had a fifth member jump in on about one third of the songs. There were drums, electric bass, acoustic bass, three keyboard set ups, violin, electric guitar, and saw. There were sounds I had to discuss with the guy next to me like hammered dulcimer and I think a bowed cowbell (he guessed xylophone). The keyboards were interesting and included a large harmonium with its droning wheeze. And that was what was fascinating about this band... the drone. They tackle Americana and folk and even have some rockers, but there was a moment with drums, violin, guitar and harmonium that I really picked up on the Velvet Underground. It was as if the Velvets lived on a farm rather than New York City. An interesting sound that others have tried, but was successful here because of the band's fine songs and dedication to taking their time with the pace allowing the emotions to really come through. And the variety was wonderful. They did this rocking sound with a rudimentary drumbeat that made Mo Tucker's restraint look like Neal Peart. If there was such a thing as 1/1 time, that's what the drummer was doing. But the next song had a tricky 6/8 beat, so they were keeping it simple by choice. There was one nice folky song where they asked everyone to pull out cell phones, call the person next to them and put them on speaker phone at his cue at song's end. Everyone was puzzled, but people did it and helped create something that sounded like electronic crickets. "Cool effect" as someone shouted afterward. They did a lot of songs from their new album and won over the crowd easily. This was much better than I expected and I had wondered if this band was worth the buzz. No, they deserve even more.
Quote of the Night: After his first harmonica blast, Daniel Lefkowitz said "I got the wrong harp, so I just won't play it.... It's my first time." He then had to do major tuning after that song "I made an error tuning in the warm room back there not knowing how cold it is out here. Ever fuck up a job interview?" His personality did win the day.