The saga of the two sisters continues. Last night as a birthday present from Adrienne to me, we hopped a train and attended an intimate and close-quartered musical bash courtesy of The Felice Brothers in the heart of Philadelphia, PA.
Before Adrienne told me of her surprise plans for us to celebrate, we’d each independently knew of the band (both of us had heard only good things) but not much else, so when I found out this was my gift, I poked around to listen to them before setting off on our next adventure into music land. Usually when we are on our journeys together it is to see a band in our collective list of very favorite and familiar bands. This time was a little different.
What neither of us anticipated as we headed out the door was just how completely blown away we’d be. The moment The Felice Brothers walked on stage, opening with “Fire at the Pageant,” they had my full and undivided attention. As cliché as it may sound, the stage came alive with intense, menacing, fabulous energy. Here we were in the sparse, crudely lit basement of a church, elbow to elbow with about 200 (?) fortunate others witnessing (no pun intended) the explosive energy spewing forth.
Most-of-the-time lead singer/guitarist Ian Felice’s voice is a vague cocktail of two parts Bob Dylan (running the risk of sounding like everyone else’s observation there), one part Paul Westerberg, and one dash of Kid Rock and even a sprinkle of Eazy E (the last two as noted by Adrienne), all shaken on the rocks of his own truly distinctive and amazing voice. Brother James Felice’s voice, his, booming, powerful and melodic and bassist Christmas each contribute perfect contrast and timbre giving the band a rich vocal sound.
By the time they rolled out “Ponzi,” another track from their forthcoming album Celebration, Florida (which will be released on May 10) Adrienne and I turned looked at each other for that “Holy shit” moment. We both knew that we’d be seeing them live again soon.
Musically The Felice Brothers are all over the map, which I loved. Within their repertoire one could picture being in an 1890’s saloon, down on a bayou in the dark, at a rave, and a second later on a peeling, sunlit porch with a pint of cider. Wafts of Beastie Boys-esque attitude, tints of very early Replacements, dashes of Pink Floyd, Old Crow Medicine Show and Bob Dylan drifted in at times but ultimately I’m most fond of the way they reminded me of a real life version of The Riverbottom Nightmare Band from Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas, and that, in my opinion is just freaking spectacular.
But these are just words and observations and nothing will explain away the mood, excitement and energy of their live show, as with most things nothing will adequately do except you getting out there and seeing them live yourself and there’s plenty opportunity here in the USA, Canada and a few dates in Australia over the next few months.
With that I’ll leave you with a bit from their website, along with some of the videos taken by our trusty blog photographer/videographer, Adrienne.
From The Felice Brothers website:
“Here’s what might come as a surprise about The Felice Brothers: their new and fourth LP Celebration, Florida is an exhilarating amalgamation of frightening horn sections, unexpected 808s, ambient synth lines, schoolyard taunts, booming, primitive drum beats, heavy bass lines, piano, violin, accordion, ringing guitars, rave beats, and sinister acid jazz that captivates and mystifies. Recorded in the gymnasium and theater of Beacon, NY’s old high school, the band explores a multitude of sounds and instrumentation throughout the expansive album. It’s inspired, imaginative, heady, menacing, passionate, and rollicking. Most importantly, it’s as steadfastly authentic as ever, expanding upon the dark, woozy undercurrent of ramshackle barroom blues, vaudevillian atmospherics, and surreal storytelling of their previous albums. Under The Radar wrote in a review of Yonder Is The Clock that The Felice Brothers find “inspiration and freedom rather than constraints in the traditions of folk music.” Celebration, Florida revels in this inventive, outlaw spirit; it’s the sound of a band that knows its roots and knows where it’s growing. It’s a group who just might expand the definition of Americana music along the way.”
Felice Brothers First Unitarian Church 3/30/2011, a set on Flickr.
Fire at the Pageant
More images from this show can be found via the Flickr gallery
(PS Thanks for the birthday cheer Adrienne!! I think it’s going to last me a long, long time!)