Little Lies and Massive Dreams

My name is Bear. I play in a band called Talking About Commas and live and work in Providence, RI. I like music.
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May 4, 2010

The Low Anthem; Building Arks with Music

A couple weeks ago the State of Rhode Island flooded like no one had seen in 100 years. Rivers overflowed, basements flooded, roads and bridges were destroyed and many families lost valuable belongings and suffered a great deal of property damage. Upon hearing this, Providence based band turned global touring act, The Low Anthem decided to make the hometown stop on their spring tour a benefit show for flood victims and ended up raising $3,000...well done.

I’ve seen the Low Anthem a lot in the past couple years since meeting the band in April of 2008 on their first ever tour outside of Rhode Island (as supporting act for Surprise me Mr Davis), so a Wednesday night show didn’t reel me in at first. But as soon as I heard about the benefit show I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Listen to music AND help those in need, how could you not? I arrived to the show late (Bruins playoff hockey has sucked me in) only to hear the final number of the middle band, Tallahasee. I completely missed the opening set by local band The ‘Mericans, next time I guess.

Lupos is a big theatre, much too big for the Anthem, especially on a week night. But after selling out smaller rooms like the Avon Theatre and Firehouse 13, they were forced to make the jump to the 2,000 theatre in downtown Providence. The band came onstage to the 1/3 filled floor (the balcony was closed) and began with “Oh My God Charlie Darwin”, assumedly played due to the songs chorus “Oh My God, the water’s all around us”. “Ticket Taker”, a love song from the view of a ticket attendant for an Ark followed. It’s one of my favorite song’s in the band’s repertoire but for some reason lead singer Ben Knox Miller abandons his whispery, subtle vocals for a more direct, full voice approach which I flat out don’t like on this particular tune.

Despite the amount of instruments on stage and a new member (multi-instrumentalist Mat Davidson) the Low Anthem are a quiet band. You could hear the crowd chattering near the bar which almost seemed louder than the band. As the set picked up, the crowd got drowned out thankfully. The band rattled through a set I've seen them play a million times before (well, this was my 11th TLA show but you know what I mean) before except for some new songs. “Apothecary Love” has a nice sentiment but sounds just like all their other songs and “Ashes” which featured the band huddled around one mic in 4 part harmony was a nice change of pace but never really went anywhere interesting. There are only so many variations of I, IV and V chords I can stand in one set. Strong tunes of the night were “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around” and the early era of the band staple “This God Damn House”. The former featured an improved Miller behind the drum kit and the only song the band plays that his “growl” voice works on (IMHO). Bassist Jeff Prystowsky killed the bass intro (as usual) and Jocie Adams lent some nice bluesy electric guitar bends and strong vocal harmony in to the mix. They latter gave us the ghostly cell phone “trick” in which the band encourages the crowd to join Miller and call their friends at the show and hold their phones together thus creating an eerie sonic effect. Its such an original trick that it never gets old. To see what I mean watch the end of this video I found on Youtube.

I left about an hour in to the band's set, being it midnight on a school night and all. I have to admit, the band sounded great. Lupo’s sound system supplied a clean, full sound; their drumming has drastically improved (the band members platoon on drums depending on the song) and newcomer Mat Davidson has a great knack for vocal harmonies and accompaniment skills. A mostly empty room with a chattering crowd and no seats is just not the best venue for a folk band. They would better be suited to keep selling out smaller listening rooms. For a young band on the rise I have to say they’ve come along way in the past 2 years and continue to progress and improve their level of musicianship. If you have never seen them, go, their unique arrangements and instrumentation are a breathe of fresh air.

Opener/s: Tallahasee, The 'Mericans
Venue Info:
Beer sitch: Lupos has a full, reasonably priced bar. $5 sam Adams or Sierra Nevada's are usually my go to.
parking: free street parking was easy to find b/c it was a weeknight
Theatre with a GA main floor and reserved seating in the balcony
capacity: 2,000 (I'm guessing 250-300 were in attendance)
1: Oh My God Charlie Darwin, Ticket Taker, To the Ghosts Who Write History Books, On My Way Home*, Apothecary Love*, Sally Where'd You Get Your Liquor From, Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around, This God Damn House, Ashes*, Sad and Guilty Feeling*
* not sure of title, new tunes.

Surprise me Mr. Davis - The Band that Eats Morning For Breakfast

Surprise Me Mr. Davis may be the best super-group that you’ve never heard of.
Made up of avant- rock trio The Slip, Singer/Songwriter Nathan Moore and virtuosic jazz pianist Marco Benevento, the band hit the road for a quick 5 show jaunt around Southern New England and NY in support of their latest release The Man Who Eats Morning for Breakfast EP on Royal Potato Family. I caught the band twice on this run; one in an intimate, listening room setting in Cambridge, MA and the other in an artsy, refurbished Firehouse (turned club) in Providence, RI.

4/13/2010 – Club Passim, Cambridge, MA

This was my first trip to Club Passim, which is a nonprofit Arts center that doubles as a tasty vegetarian restaurant called "Veggie Planet". The room fits around 100 patrons and people were seated at tables of 4 with GA single seats lining the walls. The sold out show in such an intimate setting offered a chance for Davis to play more intricately, rather than just rocking out. The band played mellow versions of songs like "Summer of My Fall" and "Roses and Bottles" to go along with the sit down vibe of the venue.

The stage was very cramped and the guys literally had to climb over a monitor and Marc's pedals to get to their instruments. Newest member, Marco was on an upright piano and had a little keyboard on top of it. Nathan switched between his "troubador" guitar (the one he won in Telluride) and the baritone uke all night. Andrew Barr had a broken down kit, no rack toms and only 2 cymbals other than the hi-hat. He had lots of toys including shakers, wine glasses filled with water, and some sort of bamboo sticks (see picture to the right) he played on his knees during "Nowhere From Here To Go". All in all a great room and great vibe for the band.

Opener: n/a
Venue Info:
Beer sitch: The restaurant served wine and 2 beers from local Cambridge brewing Co, an Amber and a Pale for $5. They came in small plastic glasses but were tasty.
free parking on the street is pretty tough, I found it about 6 blocks away. There is also a parking garage near the venue that charged $8 if Passim validates your ticket.
Layout: One room in a basement with stage against the wall. Tables of 4 in the middle of the room and individual seats line the wall, this was a sit down show
capacity: 125 (sold out)

1: (8:17) Tombstone*, Sleepyhead, Summer of My Fall, If You Knew, Emily Green, One Sick Knave, Hollow, Mardi Gras Song, Roses & Bottles

2: (9:37) Joelle, The Shouters**, Nowhere from here to Go, Poor Boy, Maybe Some Day, Home Away From Home, As the Crow Flies

E: Woo-Hoo Blues*** > Everything Must Go

Show ended at 10:41pm. * Brad on baritone ukelele, everyone else a capella. ** Nathan sang through his Harmonica Mic while sitting on the ground. He was quoting lyrics from "Fat King of Gods" during the song's intro. *** brand new short upbeat blues tune written by Nathan the day before the show. The band didn't know it and jammed along with Nathan before going in to "Everything Must Go".

4/15/2010 – Firehouse 13, Providence, RI

Firehouse 13 is a refurbished Fire Station on the west side of Providence. Basically, the venue is in the main space of the building where they kept the firetrucks. It’s a long room about as wide as the stage (which has recently been elevated to 4 feet. Yesssss!!!). The less than half filled room crept up tight to the stage as soon as the band hit which allowed for the band to feed off the energy. Unlike Cambridge, this was a standing room club with a light show and good sound system. The stage is bigger and the band had more room to interact with each other on stage.

We got a lot of repeats which is the case these days when the band doesn’t rehearse much and barely gigs; but “Summer of My Fall” and "The Shouters” were noticeably more energetic. The band threw in some more upbeat songs such as the heavy hitting “I'm No Good At All” and funky stomper, “Sissyfuss”, which opened up to a jam session with Nathan leaving the stage and the Slip and Marco just going for it. Highlights for me were the retro sounding reggae/soul number “That’s the Way” and danceable, go with the flow themed “Little Boat”.

Venue Info:
Beer sitch: Full beer and Wine Bar. Ranging from Murphys Stout to Narraganset Tall Boys for $2.50.
easy, free parking on the street.
Layout: Rock club atmosphere in an old Firehouse. GA, no seats
not sure, probably 200 or so. About 1/3 full

1: (97 min) Tombstone, Rose & Bottles, Summer of my Fall, If You Knew, Sleepyhead, New tune*, Emily Green, Im No Good at All, Maybe Some Day, Sissyfuss, Joelle, The Shouters, That's the Way, One Sick Knave, Poor boy

E1: (10 min) As the Crow Flies, Little Boat

E2: (12 min) Nowhere from Here to Go**, Everything Must Go

* just Nathan and Brad, Marc sang some harmonies. ** started as Nathan solo and the rest of the band trickled on stage.