Jeff German band

JEFF GERMAN AT NATALIES. On Saturday, April 15, I went to Natalie’s Pizza for Jeff German’s half-CD release party. Jeff is due to release his second record on Slothtrop Records later this year, and his label was releasing an early five-song “maxi-single.”
  I had a chance to listen to the single itself, a song called “Woodshed,” and a few of its supporting pieces on the drive up. Woodshed conjures a time warp between present and past, a place that has still has eight tracks, black and white TVs, and affordable vintage guitars. It might be 2015, it might be 1972, which fits right in with German’s history of writing to a mythic past, where long roads still lead to nowhere and strangers still ride into town and take an inconspicuous seat at the back of the bar.
  I had never been to Natalie’s before, and unfortunately I had eaten before I arrived. My boss (who knows about these things) had assured me that it was real deal New York Pizza, and while the pies coming out of the kitchen were a little bit more ornate than, say, John’s Pizza in Greenwich Village, they still looked quite tasty. I also arrived early and without my phone, which led to me being subjected to a tedious drunk at the bar who introduced himself four times. Such is the way of things.
  Singer-songwriter Keith Larsen opened. Although the sentimentality got to me after a couple of songs, I was impressed with Larson’s gentle vocals -- a really good singer -- and tasteful guitar playing. I think that I would have appreciated him more if I were less of a cynical troll.
  German then came on, looking natty in a plaid sport coat and the first of an ever changing variety of to-die-for guitars. He did songs from the new album, songs from the new maxi-single and a few tunes I had never heard before, like the darker “1,000 times” and the text message inspired “Somewhere Between Now and Not Quite Yet.”
  The supporting band was terrific, with Graig Barnett tearing it up on lead Telecaster. My favorite part of the night was when Barnett and German did a harmonized guitar lead on “12 Rounds,” a tune from German’s 2014 release of the same name. Now that’s something you don’t see everyday.
  It was a great and loud set, and I walked away with a new appreciation for German’s sincerity. After watching him physically throw himself into songs like “12 Rounds” or “Black and Blue,” you realize just how personally he takes this.
  DANA AT THE SUMMIT. The previous Saturday, I had gone down to the Summit to see Mike Teevee and the Porch Mutts. Having gotten my fix of Ken Nurenberg’s generalized insanity, I was about to head out to the Spacebar when I noticed that the next band was setting up a Theramin. I hadn’t seen one of these things since I saw the Pink Floyd cover band Wish You Were Here fifteen years ago (I know, I know, I am deeply ashamed that ever happened -- I was young and feckless). I thought I’d stick around for a few songs, with the assumption that things would be either really good or really terrible.
  The band was called DANA, and they were sort of afloat in a sea of gimmicks. In addition to the Theramin, vocals were pointlessly drenched in effects, and the drummer set up on the dance floor facing the stage. I mean, I know that it’s the new thing, and I’m all for letting the drummer escape from the back of the stage once in a while, but where does this end? The drummer in the bathroom? Outside on the patio? At a bar down the street?
  But pushing past all the needless clutter (which also included a guitarist dressed in what appeared to be Swiss hiking instructor shorts), you could see a terrific bass player driving the beat and a girl ripping out vicious vocals while stalking the stage like a panther. When she sang and played the Theramin at the same time, she resembled a demented wizard intent on turning the audience into ferrets. She was amazing, and at times positively frightening.
  When you have someone who can sing like that, it doesn’t make sense to me to upstage her with drum location silliness and finely toned calf muscles, or even her own Theramin playing (I mean, you know, it really isn’t even a playable instrument). If it were up to me, I’d get the drummer back on stage, knock off the vocal effects, reduce the Theramin usage to a couple of songs and buy the guitarist some pants. I’m not usually an advice giver, I guess, but it seems to me that this band could actually be something special.


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