Monday, July 20, 2009

The Felice Brothers Steal the Show at Master Musicians Festival

The Felice Brothers
Moonage Webdream Blog
Lately it seems I’ve been complaining a lot about modern performers. I’m not even going to use the term musicians. Too many bands don’t make any effort to be original. They stick with the same instruments, some not at all. They have degrading lyrics, a bad message if any, and make no attempt whatsoever to make their music, product, unique. Every so often I stumble on exceptions I wish would be the front page of Rolling Stone. But, never are. Along with Cowboy Crush and Bonepony, The Felice Brothers are a show to see.

The Felice Brothers performing at Master Musician Festival

Now, that doesn’t look like much I know. Just a bunch of guys playing a small stage in rural Kentucky. But, they were a hoot. Sort of a cross of Bluegrass with a touch of rock and a dash of rap. I guarantee you this is the only act today rapping to a washboard. And that’s the start of their creativity. These guys are just fun all the way around. You feel it, you see it, you hear it, you just know it. I immediately noticed two things that made me know these guys are the real thing:

1. For reasons unknown to me, people started throwing cigarettes on stage. My friend I was standing with thought they were joints and immediately started rummaging through his stuff to find his. I finally convinced him they were cigarettes. Only bands that are convincing will get a grown ( sorta ) adult to do stupid things enthusiastically.
2. Although using a modern keyboard, it was propped in what looked like an old keyboard wooden box. Like the cheap little five octave pianos people used to tour with. The washboard in a dizzying jig fell backwards and knocked the whole thing over. Without missing a beat, the keyboard player picked up his accordian and took it from there while they ( band members ), repaired the keyboard stand, sorta. Only good bands can keep going during disaster.
3. The drummer only had a tom and a snare besides the usual bass and cymbals. He only used the tom during those very special moments when they stressed something important. Great bands don’t need a lot of flashy drum parts. It needs noting as well the washboard player destroyed the entire set at the end. I’m sure that was his tribute to The Who. Great bands also recognize those that set the stage for them.
4. The people sang along with them. These weren’t great lyrics. They were neither inspiring or exciting. They were for the most part just kinda silly. People who I’m sure had never seen these guys before were singing along with them. That to me is a sign that people relate to what the band is doing.
5. My six year old boy loved them. He’s seen a lot of performances. He’s not easily swayed. He enjoyed these guys a lot.
6. More importantly, I am glad my six year old enjoyed them. Too many lyrics today are just embarassing. You didn’t hear anything degrading, demeaning, or any profanity. As goofy and fun as they were, they kept it clean. The whole family enjoyed it. Their lyrics were clever. They were funny. I wouldn’t mind my boy singing their stuff any time he wanted, anywhere he was. That’s a rarity these days.
7. Too many performers today go to great lengths to be as ugly as they can possibly be. People pierce their lips, their nose, they wear only one color ( black ), and get nasty looking tattoos to prove they’re the baddest, meanest, musician that ever graced planet Earth. These guys don’t need any of that crap, and they know it. They just truly are ugly. However, when you wear ugly well, it’s a lot more impressive than being a pretty boy who can’t wear that well. Mick Jagger was incredibly ugly with his scraggly face marked with aging lines by the time he was a teenager. These guys are ugly in that kind of way. You got Mick Jagger ugly, you got John Belushi ugly, you got it all. They wear it well, sorta.

You get the idea by now. I like these guys. Do me, them, and yourself a favor and check out their stuff. This ain’t grunge, it ain’t metal, it ain’t rap, it ain’t country, it ain’t what I would call anything traditional. Coming from me, that’s the best compliment you can get. Keep it real guys. Please.