The Revivalists/Watermark/August 14, 2014

David Shaw was on his porch singing and strumming an acoustic guitar in 2007 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Guitarist Zack Feinberg rode by on his bicycle and stopped to listen. The two struck up a friendship, recruited other musicians and The Revivalists were born. The Revivalists brought a bit of New Orleans to Watermark on Pier 15. The Revivalists served a jambalaya of American music, simmering with soulful vocals and rock and funk instrumental jams. Frequently the rhythm section led a funk groove, Shaw started crooning a soul song and then Shaw stepped back as the band fed into extended jams, led by guitar, keyboard, pedal steel or sax. As a result, everything sounded somewhat familiar, yet fresh and exciting. The performance was a gumbo filled with spicy good sounds that motivated the audience to dance in place under the moonlight.

Miss Fairchild/The Bowery Electric/August 14, 2014

Growing up in a small town as the son and grandson of preachers, Travis Richard (or “Daddy Wrall”) discovered a yearning to command the stage and sing. Teaming in 2004 with two Boston-based friends, producer Samuel Nice (aka Sammy Bananas) and arranger Schuyler Dunlap, Travis became the voice of a studio project called Miss Fairchild. A live band was formed around the song and dance man by 2005. Miss Fairchild performed a super-slick, almost cabaret-style rhythm and blues show at The Bowery Electric. Richard captured the 1960s soul sound in his vocals and as a charismatic front person was fully committed to the entertainment aspect of the show. Joyful pop songs with a funk groove were powered by blue-eyed soul singing, smooth melodies and bubbly arrangements. Richard engaged the audience to sing-along to catchy choruses in “Train Wreck” and other tunes. The songs were given greater depth through keyboard leads and sax fills. The set swayed sweetly with a sassy sashay.

Red Wanting Blue/Bowery Ballroom/August 15, 2014

Originally from New Jersey, singer-songwriter Scott Terry formed Red Wanting Blue (also known as RWB) as a rock and roll band in 1995 while studying in Athens, Ohio. The band released two albums while still in school, and after college relocated in 1999 to Columbus, Ohio. Terry is the sole remaining original member of Red Wanting Blue. Red Wanting Blue brought the heart of Middle America, complete with a display of on-the-road bumper stickers and truck-stop novelty items, to the Bowery Ballroom. The music was similarly driving, with many lyrics painting the life of musicians who live on a tour bus. It was blue-collar rock and roll with a taste of country and Southern rock for flavor. Terry’s husky, masculine voice delivered well, with all fervor and little nuance, lending a sense of integrity to the sometimes oblique tales he spun in his reflective lyrics. He told the audience that he was afraid to sing the new song “Leaving New York” in New York, but took off his hat and sang the soft ballad earnestly and beautifully. Throughout the set, the energetic musicians played enthusiastically but tightly; although the feel of the music was loose, in reality there was little wiggle room for jamming until the end of the set. Opening act and long-time friends The Alternate Routes joined Red Wanting Blue on stage for the show’s finale, a rousing seven-minute Southern-rocking cover of Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova,” complete with dueling guitars. This was the sound of a young, working class America.

Echo & The Bunnymen/Irving Plaza/August 16, 2014

Ian McCulloch was born in Liverpool, England, and as a teenager integrated into the local music scene at Eric’s Club. After stints in a few shirt-lived bands, McCulloch joined with guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson to form Echo & The Bunnymen in 1978. McCulloch and Sergeant presently fill out Echo & The Bunnymen with touring musicians. At Irving Plaza, McCulloch stood at his microphone stand and remained almost motionless throughout the concert, bathed in darkness. Never was a spotlight shone on him, making photographs a challenge. The band opened with the title-track of the new Meteorites album, and McCulloch, wearing dark pants, shirt, sports jacket, shades and unkempt hair, appeared as a silhouette singing dark, brooding vocals. His Jim Morrison-style of singing became more evident with a medley of “Rescue” and “Broke My Neck.” Three songs later, he sang The Doors’ “People Are Strange.” It was this voice on which the show centered, more so than any of the musicians’ contributions. New songs were received well, including “Holy Moses” and “Constantinople,” but the show built up to the haunting, synthesizer-driven “Bring On The Dancing Horses,” a bombastic medley of “Villiers Terrace” and The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” a lighter “The Killing Moon” and a harsher “The Cutter.” For the first encore, the band joined a soft, acoustic “Nothing Lasts Forever” to adaptations of Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” and Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour.” The show ended with the better-known “Lips Like Sugar” in extended form and a modest final encore of “Ocean Rain.” The classic drama-pop masters kept the music alive and energetic, and despite McCulloch’s subdued visual appearance, his voice was what made it all interesting.

Johnnyswim/Bowery Ballroom/August 19, 2014

Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano met in a coffee shop after Sunday service at a church in Nashville, Tennessee. The two began writing and singing together in 2006 and called themselves Johnnyswim. Sudano and Ramirez married in 2009 and are based in Los Angeles, California. Johnnyswim’s headlining engagement at the Bowery Ballroom was packed with an exuberant cordiality, a magnetic positivity and an engaging wholesomeness. Who does not respond favorably to a bit of Southern charm and elegance? Johnnyswim’s set was hinged on rich, mesmerizing two-part harmonies and unadorned, low-key musical arrangements, much like The Civil Wars. Often staring each other in the eyes, Ramirez and Sudano were so in sync with each other that sometimes it was tasking to tell their voices apart. With Ramirez strumming an acoustic guitar and backed by an electric guitarist, bassist and drummer, the songs mined folk, soul, blues and pop for a lily-soft, blended sound, even when they took a turn at foot-stomping and hand-clapping country toward the end of the set with “Home.” Ramirez and Sudano invited the audience both into their music and their lives. The duo introduced many songs with personal anecdotes, always related with an amusing spin; the story about Ramirez’s proposal was longer than the song it produced, “Paris In June.” With a knack for feel-good songs, mutually-enhancing vocals, a cross-section of musical styles and enjoyable banter, Johnnyswim’s performance was almost like a variety show.

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