Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Felice Brothers (lancaster PA) on Jambase

Words by: Donald Lusk | Images by: Jay Pflanz

The Felice Brothers :: 09.05.09 :: Chameleon Club :: Lancaster, PA

The Felice Brothers :: 09.05 :: Lancaster, PA
The Felice Brothers have become one of the hardest working roots rock outfits around, touring months at a time before a few weeks break and then onto the next run of shows. After their summer tour with Old Crow Medicine Show, the Brothers got back to the small clubs in the Mid-Atlantic area, where they seem most at home.

This was their second trek to Lancaster, PA, and at the first show less than a year ago they drew maybe 75 people. Once we arrived at the glorified basement that is the Chameleon Club, it was clear that their non-stop touring has paid off in new fans as the line was out the door, making for a packed house on a Labor Day weekend Saturday night. Willy Mason opened the show, sharing his singer-songwriter thoughts on everything from pickup trucks to chasing girls. For the last couple of songs he was joined by the Felices, and once they settled in they fleshed out Mason's songs, pushing the sound throughout the room.

The Brothers came out to lots of whoops and hollers. A few friendly fans had set them up with some beers at the front of the stage, and away we went. With dark, ominous tones oozing from James Felice's organ, they tore into "Greatest Show On Earth." It was an impressive performance, full of nuance set against Christmas' big, booming bass. After the strong opener they dipped into "Two Hands," a Townes Van Zandt composition that talks about filling your life with Jesus so you're not "gonna think about trouble anymore."

The Felice Brothers :: 09.05 :: Lancaster, PA
Up next was "Cooperstown," with lead singer Ian Felice and James' accordion taking center stage. A very literal song about baseball and Ty Cobb, everyone paid rapt attention as the accordion wheezed out a tale from 1905. James always seems to have some whiskey on his keyboards, as he did tonight, but he wanted to share, so before he took off on "Whiskey in my Whiskey," he asked the audience to "pass it around the whole room."

Each member got the chance to sing this evening. With Simone Felice gone from the band, it appears as if it is becoming more democratic. Greg Farley, he of the washboard and fiddle and cheerleader extraordinaire, sang his "Song for Gramps." Bassist Christmas remained impenetrable, scowling most of the time onstage except for his turn at the mic on a new song.

With Willy Mason joining the boys for the latter half, playing anything he could find onstage, they drove through some of their most frantic material - "Take this Bread," "Chicken Wire" and "Helen Fry." They did debut a new song, "Marie," which was quite beautiful, and each member sang a verse. They closed the show with "Chicken Run," featuring Farley splashing water throughout the crowd.

It was a pretty standard performance by the group, though with some new songs being added to the mix. While standard, the interplay between the musicians is one of their selling points. Not only are they excellent players and writers, they sure are having fun and it's contagious.

The Felice Brothers are on tour now; dates available here.

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