The Felice Brothers – Webster Hall – April 17, 2009April 20th, 2009
There’s something to be said for coloring outside the lines—letting the crayon wander and just plain getting messy. That’s about how the Felice Brothers played it Friday night at Webster Hall. Heck, they didn’t even let a thing like a start time dictate things: The sign on the door read FELICE BROS. AT 9 P.M., but it wasn’t even 8:55 when the music began.
From the get-go it was one jagged, colorful line after another straying beyond the boundaries. There was no defined spot onstage for anyone to stand, no decorum whatsoever. It wasn’t even clear that the instruments were always perfectly in tune. This was music to be played in a nearly empty bar late at night, when no one in the crowd is seeing quite straight and they’re all singing along to every song even if they don’t know the words. Except it was quite early, it was a cavernous dance club in Manhattan and the place was absolutely packed. In a word, it was ragged—wonderfully, intentionally so.
The music had everyone smiling. It was the perfect antidote to a long day, a long week or a long year. Even when the songs slowed, they were up-tempo. And even when they touched on downright depressing themes, they were upbeat. There is an obvious Bob Dylan subtext in there—with the accordion and violin substituting for the harmonica—and the lyricism is filtered through a fifth of brown liquor, but the sound remains distinct and addictive. The set list was split almost evenly with songs off the Felice Brothers’ self-titled debut album and new material from their recent release, Yonder Is the Clock. It was all warm and sharp, like the bite of a shot of bourbon. —A. Stein