Benefit concert with The Felice Brothers and AA Bondy

It was a bit chilly, but that’s to be expected when you’re in a barn in November. At night. With no heat. That’s exactly where I was on Saturday night, the barn in question being the one at the Catskill Point in Catskill, NY. The reason I was there at night, with no heat? To hear a concert by AA Bondy and The Felice Brothers of course, with a special performance by the Catskill Drum Corp. It was a benefit concert for the Hudson Valley Food Pantry, and a percentage of the ticket sales were given to the drum corp for new drums, while the rest was donated to the food pantry.

The drum corp opened the show, and although the drummers weren’t entirely together the whole time, you can’t judge them for that. Not only were they nervous, but they were all under the age of sixteen! The youngest looked to be about ten. It was a great way to start the show, and it was wonderful to see the kids enthusiasm.

After that came AA Bondy. He played electric guitar for a large portion of his set, and his music was much more rock edged than it usually is. I’m a big fan of Bondy’s acoustic stuff, but I also loved the direction his music took on Saturday. He changed the sound of a bunch of his songs, and I particularly liked his new arrangements of “O The Vampyre” and “Vice Rag.” He created interesting sounds with his vocals on “Vice Rag,” matching the drone of his guitar with them. Adding backup vocals and drums to AA Bondy’s set was Nicholas Kinsey, the drummer for Elvis Perkins in Dearland (Kinsey is currently recording with Bondy). Also playing for a few of the songs was Wyndham Boylan-Garnett, who is a member of Elvis Perkins in Dearland as well. On top of all that, toward the end of his set, AA Bondy brought Christmas (of The Felice Brothers) onto the stage to play bass.

If you think that sounds like a lot of musicians on stage at once, it got really crowded up there when The Felice Brothers went on… Not only was the stage filled with Simone, Ian, James, Christmas, and Farley, but AA Bondy joined the gang for a lot of their songs, dueling with Ian on guitar, while Wyndham Boylan-Garnett played trombone, Nicholas Kinsey jumped up there with a clarinet, of all instruments, and Peter Buettner played saxophone. Think that’s a lot of musicians? Well, things got really, really crowded when The Felice Brothers invited the drum corp on stage for one of their new songs, called “Penn Station”!

I love The Felice Brothers and feel that they are at their finest when playing in a barn. That kind of setting fits them, and is a part of where their musical inspiration stems from in the first place. A barn is a place where back in the old days everyone would gather on weekends, and there was a sense of family among the people, whether related by blood or not. That’s what The Felice Brothers bring to their shows, and to the world. Whether they’re channeling old country/folk bands and musicans from the depression era, folk/blues bands from the 50’s and 60’s, or any of the many other influences which can be heard in their music, The Felice Brothers are the working man’s friend, and they sing songs which speak to everyone. Not only that, but they let loose and have so much fun onstage that as a member of the audience, you smile just looking at them! Then when you listen to their music, you smile even more. A concert by The Felice Brothers is an all-around smile fest. They aren’t afraid to take risks with their music, even if it’s in front of hundreds of people. Sure, the risks don’t always pay off, and I’ve been at a show where they came to a halt in the middle of a song because they hadn’t worked out the end quite yet… But I love them for their lack of inhibition. And like I said, they’re at their finest when playing in a barn. Sure, they play big venues too, such as, oh I don’t know, Radio City Music Hall, but The Felice Brothers enjoy playing more intimate settings. They always encourage the crowd to move closer and sit on the floor if they want to, and love to see people dancing.

Although the Felice boys seem at home no matter where they are or what they’re doing, it was wonderful to see them play at a hometown show, and AA Bondy playing both before and with them just made the night even more special. Everyone in attendance was brought together by the music, and there was a sense of comradery as young and old alike sat there. In a barn. Just like in the old days. We all owe The Felice Brothers and AA Bondy our thanks for keeping such a special part of American history alive.

Videos from AA Bondy’s set:

Witness Blues

Among The Pines

O The Vampyre

Vice Rag

Killed Myself When I Was Young

Videos from The Felice Brothers set:

Memphis Flu

Helen Fry

Hey Hey Revolver

Murder By Mistletoe

Chicken Wire

Goddamn You, Jim

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