Nicole Atkins And The Black Sea/The Gay Blades/Mon Khmer @ Bowery Ballroom

NEW YORK, NY—Going to the Bowery Ballroom is always a unique experience. I got there around 7:20 p.m. just so I’d be able to get a good spot on the ballroom floor. After standing in the waiting area for about 10 minutes, the doors opened and a small crowd of people went up the stairs.

I found myself at the front of the stage and patiently waiting for the first band to come on. Mon Khmer, a six piece progressive and experimental band from Brooklyn, NY opened up the show that night. Their set was a mix of songs from their self-titled debut, as well as some others. I was really digging them; it was a shame that there wasn’t as big of a crowd for them as the other bands that night. Their set list included “George,” “Passwords,” “Great Escape” and “Anniversary.” Throughout their performance, bassist Matt Scheiner captivated me with the way he swayed to the music and appeared to be completely immersed in the groove of each song.

After Mon Khmer, The Gay Blades set up and took the stage. The gritty, dirty, alternative and entertaining three-piece really brought down the Bowery Ballroom and, in my opinion, had the strongest performance of the night. Lately, they have been playing shows to support their album, Savages. The band brought out two horn players to accompany them on a couple of songs. Mike Abiuso, the latest addition to the band, meshed in well with lead singer Clark Westfield and drummer Puppy Mills. Out of acts on the bill, TGB certainly had the most energy, stage presence and charisma. Though the crowd was a bit mellow, the trio busted out some upbeat-dance-your-face-off songs. In their set was “O Shot,” “Try To Understand” and “Why Winter In Detroit.” Frontman Westfield made eye contact with everyone, even the two middle-aged men who were front and center waiting for Nicole Atkins.

Once The Gay Blades finished, the crowd packed in tighter in anticipation for the guest of honor, Nicole Atkins and her band, The Black Sea. The night was a special one for Atkins. After all, her album, Mondo Amore, was being released. Her set list included tracks off of the new record, but Atkins did mix in some of her older songs. Immediately you could feel the darker emotions in her newer pieces and you most certainly could hear it in Atkins’ voice.

Roughly half way through her set, Nicole invited Senior, who is depicted on the Mondo Amore album cover, to join her on stage. He took a seat on the side of the stage and drank wine out of a paper cup while interacting with some fans in the balconies. At one point, Atkins addressed an older man in the audience. Apparently he’s been to most of her shows and always looks like he wants to kill her until he is recognized and smiles. Nicole’s track list for the evening included “Monterey Honey,” which she played by herself on an acoustic guitar, “Vultures,” Cry Cry Cry” and “The Way It Is,” among others.

With the diversity of the bands on the bill there was a little something for everyone. If you weren’t at the show, you missed a real treat.