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Four Bands, Three Venues, Two Boroughs, One Night

April 23rd, 2012

J. Roddy Walston and the Business > Lucero > Portugal. The Man > the Greyboy Allstars – Webster Hall > Music Hall of Williamsburg > Brooklyn Bowl – April 20, 2012

Just like farmers do with their crops, I rotate my vices. And so although 4/20 is a smoker’s holiday, since I’d just returned to drinking after some time off, I needed to build up my brown-liquor tolerance in preparation for Jazz Fest, two weeks away. So I grabbed a team of idiots and headed out to see four bands at three venues in two boroughs in one night. J. Roddy Walston and the Business got things started at Webster Hall with “Don’t Break the Needle.” The boisterous crowd, which steadily grew throughout the set, throatily sang along from the get-go. It was hard to believe it was only 7:30 on a Friday, but the Baltimore-based band continued with the pedal to the metal, pumping out bluesy rock and roll for nearly an hour, the perfect way to begin our mission.

Next came the country-punk-rock mashup of headliner Lucero. I’m a big fan of their latest album, Women & Work, so I welcomed the chance to finally hear some of the new songs, like “On My Way Downtown,” “It May Be too Late” and “Juniper,” fleshed out live. Lucero was in fine form and singer Ben Nichols’ gravelly, whiskey-soaked voice was as evocative as ever. Having toured together before, these bands are perfect complements and seem, musically, to be two peas in a pod. It was a great one-two punch of party music. But with Webster Hall making the early changeover to club night, we headed to the L to go to Williamsburg for two more shows.

Since I first saw them at Bonnaroo in 2008, Portugal. The Man has steadily gained in popularity and gone through a number of changes. They rarely have the same look—or even lineup—on consecutive tours. But no matter, because their sound remains unaffected. At Music Hall of Williamsburg, frontman John Gourley was no longer front and center, instead positioned all the way to the left, sort of standing sideways. The band covered a fair amount of the The Satanic Satanist and In the Mountain in the Cloud albums. And again, the crowd loudly sang along, especially on “People Say” and the Beatles covers “Helter Skelter” and “Hey Jude.” While the show was sponsored by Jägermeister, the exploratory jams combined perfectly with my now-Jameson-addled head.

The music progressively grew jammier each stop along the way, which worked out well, as our diminishing communication skills had basically become nothing more than head nods and hand signals by the time we reached Brooklyn Bowl for the Greyboy Allstars. And it was refreshing to know after nearly 20 years, this funk-jazz conglomerate is still laying it down. We arrived for part of the third set, which consisted of a fair amount of Michael Jackson teases (if not whole covers). Altogether it was a night of running into old friends while managing to make some new ones, an unlimited amount of hearty “to Levon!” toasts, plus some good old-fashioned drinking in the street and smoking in a cab. It was the perfect warm-up. New Orleans awaits. —R. Zizmor

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com