Bryan Dunn headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. It was his official CD Release show for Sweetheart of the Music Hall. Three weeks ago I did something I rarely do, I reviewed a CD. It happened to be Brian’s CD.
Before you read another word about the show, go buy the CD (if you don’t trust me blindly, you can stream it at that link for free, but then buy it).
If you read my review, I hope you took two things from it:
- Bryan is a masterful lyricist
- He delivers unfooled-around-with rock
I’d like to add something that I didn’t really mention in the review (and should have!). Bryan has an excellent voice. I don’t know why, but last night I realized that it strikes me as extremely reminiscent of Paul McCartney (someone slap me if it reminds them more of John Lennon, but the point is that it brings me back to some of my earliest memories of loving The Beatles).
(Off topic: Bryan’s previous CD, Vicious Waltz is also fantastic, I’ve enjoyed it many times, and am listening to it again now as I type!)
All of the above was totally evident last night. The rock was hard-charging and driving throughout. Even the zombies couldn’t resist a little hip swaying (something they typically have trouble doing). Reproducing the sound/feel of this CD on stage is no small feat, but Bryan, along with an incredible band (including a number of special guests) were more than up to the task.
Bryan played both electric and acoustic guitars and generally thrilled the crowd on vocals and mainly unfinished sentences in between songs.
The set was absolutely fantastic, we were both still buzzing about it this morning. I’m going to cover each of the core band members first, then the special guests, then a summary of how we discovered Bryan to begin with.
But wait, one not-so-quick aside before doing what I just said I would do. Bryan opened the show with the title cut, Sweetheart of the Music Hall. If you followed my instructions above, and bought the CD before reading this, then you know that there’s a wonderful trumpet lead on that number.
Before playing the song, Bryan called out for Tony Maceli a few times (ending with: “Going once, going twice, gone…”) before starting the song. Someone called out from the audience to say that Tony just texted him to say he was almost there, but the song had just started.
Most of you know that when I write about Tony, it’s almost always about his amazing bass play (both electric and upright). But, if you are addicted to this space and read everything I write, then you know that I’ve also written a couple of times that he’s played the trumpet and even guitar.
Tony was supposed to play the trumpet on Sweetheart of the Music Hall. Obviously, he didn’t. Tony walked in right at the end of the second song, peeked at the set list on stage and noticed that he missed his song.
Do you want to know what my definition of class is? It’s Tony Maceli. Instead of sulking, he watched the entire set, applauded loudly for each number and performer, and put money in the tip jar when it came around (in fact, he was the first to toss money in).
Now the band, left-to-right on stage:
Joe Brent on mandolin and acoustic guitar (perhaps more, but I was in a bad vantage point to see him for much of the set). Joe came up on the second number and played on all but one after that. Joe plays on the CD too, so it was great to hear that sound live as well. The mandolin is one of the reasons I said that some of the songs have a Country Rock tinge. Joe’s great (as I find myself repeating a lot lately) and I really enjoyed his play last night.
On one number he sat at the electronic keyboards and I thought I was about to hear him on yet another instrument. But, I think he was just resting for a minute. Ah, just looked through Lois’ photos, and it does indeed looked like I missed Joe doing something on the keyboards!
Ah, no I see from the photos that Joe also played the banjo. Thank goodness Lois documented all of this for me!
Wait, what’s this? A Guitolin? Manduitar? Who knows. It’s very cute though.
Ryan Vaughn on percussion and drums. Ryan is always great and was at the top of his game last night. He was the primary percussionist last night. That included a floor tom and cymbals as part of his bag of tricks, so it was quite a full sound. In the middle of the set, he moved over the to the full drum kit and ripped it to pieces (that’s a good thing, he didn’t take a knife to the drum kit).
Drew McKeon on drums and percussion. Drew was the primary drummer last night and he was fantastic (my first time seeing him). When Ryan switched to the drums, Drew took over Ryan’s percussion station and was just as good on that. The two of them created the driving beats that I mentioned above, forcing every cell in your body to want to shake it a baby (sorry, couldn’t resist another Beatles reference).
I’ve written a number of times about wanting multiple drummers on stage at the same time (like The Allman Brothers Band perfects) and last night was a completely satisfactory version of that!
Jim McNamara on upright bass. This was our third time seeing Jim on bass (the first time was our first Bryan Dunn sighting) and he has impressed every time. I would like to see more of him, so I’ll have to see what I have to do to make that happen.
Jeremy Goldsmith on lead electric guitar and vocals. Like with Jim, this was our third time seeing Jeremy. While he was great both previous times, I have to say that neither showcased his skills like last night’s set did. A quick digression first.
Bryan Dunn is quite the guitarist himself. In fact, half of the times that we’ve seen Bryan, were as the lead guitarist for Jeff Litman, where has been excellent each time. Whenever I see someone who is a great guitarist pick someone else to be the guitar player for them, I know I’m going to see someone special on the guitar, as the guy doing the picking clearly knows what sound he wants and who can deliver it.
Back to Jeremy. Holy cow, he was great on every number, but on a few he let loose with leads that were faster than greased lightning, but still clear as a bell and smooth. I was surprised that my ears could keep up with his fingers.
Jeremy sang quite a big of background vocals, extremely well, including three-part harmony with the guests. He was already firmly on my list of people to see whenever I could, but he jumped up a few spots last night.
Now the special guests, in the order they appeared (song-wise, not position on stage):
Misty Boyce played keyboards on two numbers, including opening the show on Sweetheart of the Music Hall. I don’t know her own music at all, but I’m a huge fan from the previous guest appearances I’ve seen (most recently, at Tony Maceli’s Full Vinyl show). I’m going to do whatever is in my power to correct my lack of knowledge of her own music next Sunday night, 4/15, when she has a set at Rockwood 1 at 10pm. She’s part of a set tonight at 8pm, but I don’t believe I will be there, nor do I know if that’s her music either.
Abby Ahmad sang with Bryan on at least three numbers. I’ve been writing about Abby a lot recently. She’s a great singer and songwriter as well (fronting at least two bands that I’m aware of). She has the power to keep up with last night’s sound and was well matched with Bryan. For all the times that I’ve written about her, I hadn’t met her until Lois introduced herself last night and then grabbed me to say hi too.
Andy Mac on vocals and tambourine. Andy did a great job of singing harmony with Bryan on one number, then was invited back for the finale with lots of others. Ryan Vaughn handed Andy a tambourine to keep him amused. He did a wonderful job of keeping us entertained on it as well.
Chris Cubeta joined to play the harmonium on one number (I told you this was straight up rock, right? so of course there had to be a harmonium ). Chris produced this CD, which I’ve already told you is a masterpiece. I’ve only seen Chris perform once before, also at Tony’s Full Vinyl show.
Mark Marshall joined for the finale, grabbing Bryan’s electric guitar, while Bryan played the acoustic. I’ve mentioned a number of times how good Mark is on the electric. Last night, right after Jeremy totally blew my mind (for the final time, during the finale), Mark took an awesome lead as well. Considering that was on someone else’s guitar, it was all the more impressive.
DJ Brik Mason joined for the last number as well. He sang harmony in the beginning, but then Bryan turned it over to Brik for a full-on rap. After rapping, he urged the crowd on after each verse, in a rap-like bridge. It fit in perfectly with the song and kept the energy way up for an already high-energy show.
One more shot of the finale:
Well, the finale wasn’t the final song, of course, Bryan had to take an encore. The previously mentioned people left the stage, but Misty returned to the keyboards to help Bryan close out the show, along with the core band.
To repeat, the CD is great, the show delivered that feeling better than we could have expected. What a night.
Here’s the set list:
Unfortunately for you, if you’re one of those people who have to read all the way to the end, this post isn’t quite over yet.
Lois and I have a huge overlap in the music we love, but we also have tastes that diverge. For most people/groups, one of us is typically a bigger fan (sometimes very slightly). In Bryan’s case, we’re equally fanatic. As I’ve mentioned in two previous posts, Lois listened to the new CD before I did, and was bugging me by calling out lyrics non-stop while I was blogging about Jesse Terry’s show (which was where we bought the CD from Bryan).
She chided me for not including one particular lyric in my CD review. Thankfully, I can appease her now by inserting it here. When she listened to 6 Black Horses (probably her favorite song on the CD), she quoted from the song:
The poet and the pauper, it’s all the same to him
Spend hours in the raging while the lights are growing dim
Lois was struck by the ode to Dylan Thomas. There’s also a reference to The Parting Glass in that song. So struck, that she reached out to Bryan to ask if it was purposeful. It was indeed!
Circling back to the beginning. I’ve mentioned many times that we often serendipitously discover someone because we show up to an earlier set in order to grab a seat, or catch a set between two that we came out for.
Such was the case two years and two weeks ago, when we came early and caught Bryan doing a full set. We were both really impressed. Since then we’ve seen Bryan do a few of his own songs here and there, at a Backscratch and at a few benefits, but mostly, we’ve seen him support Jeff Litman.
Amazingly, it took two years to see him play a full set again. At least the wait was more than worth it!
And, the obligatory (in the best sense!) photos of people we shared the spirit with: