Monday, March 07, 2011

Song of the Week 3/4/11

Middle Brother - "Blue Eyes"

In July 1986 I saw Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform together at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC, as those in the Capital District call it) in Saratoga Springs. It was not only the first time I drank vodka, it was the first concert I attended that was hyped up because of the promised crossover between the two artists. Alas, the vodka robbed me of remembering much of the first few songs. What I can recall is that it didn't mesh as well as I had expected. That's the problem with many high profile collaborations and "supergroups"--they never live up to our expectations.

Saturday night I had a belly full of fried chicken, not vodka, when I went to the Middle Bother/Dawes/Deer Tick show. This was a show that outpaced all my expectations. Middle Brother is the collaboration between Deer Tick's John McCauley, Dawes's Taylor Goldsmith and Delta Spirit's Matt Vasquez. These three singer-songwriters crafted an album that equals and at times surpasses the work of their main bands. It is, bluntly put, supergroup that is indeed super. The relaxed and friendly vibe of their self-titled debut carried throughout the night, as Deer Tick and Dawes delivered outstanding performances that proved the buzz behind both is well deserved. Vasquez's bandmates were back in California working on Delta Spirit's next album, so he delivered a miniset backed by Deer Tick. Vasquez is one of my favorite new frontmen of the past 5 years. He's got stage presence by the truckloads, and when he led the band through a fast-paced and raucous take on Bruce Springsteen's "Racing in the Street" I wanted to jump for joy. (Alas, fried chicken + a hurt Achilles heel = no jumping.)

After that miniset almost the entire roster of musicians came out to perform a passionate and fun take on Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me." I thought they couldn't top that the rest of the night, yet I was mistaken. Deer Tick delivered for the rest of their set, obviously energized by the on stage collaboration. Dawes were just as good as when I first saw them at last year's ACL. And the Middle Brother set was just a ball. Everyone on stage was in good spirits (and drinking good spirits) and that vibe was infectious. The only downside of the night came when country parody act Johnny Corndawg did a mini set with Dawes that ground the momentum to a halt. Yet that misstep couldn't detract from what is easily the best show I've seen so far this year.

One of my favorite parts of Saturday night's show was whenVasquez and Goldsmith both messed up the lyrics to "Blue Eyes." (That didn't really matter, because the riff in the song is so catchy that I found myself humming it in my head the entire car ride home.) See for yourself:

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