Curtis Eller and Deni Bonet at the Rosendale Cafe

For those of you who may not have heard of Curtis Eller, he’s a semi-contortionist yodeling banjo player from Brooklyn. His parents belonged to a circus when he was young, so he grew up in that sort of an environment and incorporates whirling and high-kicking into his act. He has incredible balance, and extraordinary control when it comes to jumping around, kicking, and dancing in circles while playing his banjo and singing. A live show by Curtis Eller is a riot, and I got to see him on Saturday night at the Rosendale Cafe, where he was playing a double-bill with Deni Bonet. Seeing Curtis Eller perform is quite an interactive experience… He likes to run around, and during any given song, you might find him sitting at your table (or on it). He also relies on audience enthusiasm, and there was no shortage of it at the show. We got to yodel along, join Curtis on some sing-alongs, and when he sang a beautiful waltz about pigeons, we got to coo!!! Curtis Eller is a throwback to another era, and as he said at the show, “I kinda feel like every thing’s gone downhill since 1929…” He writes and sings about random historical people and events (such as Buster Keaton, Amelia Earhart, John Wilkes Booth, Joe Louis, and the Hartford Circus Fire ), and does so in a way which is both incredibly smart and refreshing. For his last two songs Curtis brought Deni Bonet out, and for the last song of his set, he had everyone in the audience sing along to the surprisingly touching waltz, “Save Me Joe Louis” (there’s a really interesting story behind the song, if you follow the link to the video for it at the bottom of this post, you can hear Curtis explain it). We were singing the chorus contently when he told us to stop, joking, “Okay, now just me, so you remember it’s my show.” But there’s no way we could forget, Curtis Eller is just too entertaining! Did I mention he rocks a mustache somewhere between Charlie Chaplain’s and Albert Einstein’s???

After that, Deni Bonet took the stage with her band, comprised of Austin Donohue on guitar and vocals, and Kevin Moon on guitar, bass, and backup vocals. The musicians had a nice balance with each other, always something a band should have, yet all too rarely do. They also moved well together… Watching them sway and bend was fascinating; they bantered back and forth with their bodies, and their movements had an almost dance-like quality. Deni and Austin’s vocals sound particularly wonderful together, their tones blend beautifully. Austin also got to sing a song he wrote, which Deni backed him on, called “Slow Vibration.” The musicians went on five minute long jam breaks during some of the songs, and Deni Bonet’s performance was so energetic! She’s a vibrant woman, and it translates into her electric fiddle playing, which is just that. Electric. And that has nothing to do with wires or sound systems… It comes right from her heart. Parts of the show did have to do with wires though, as Deni’s manager and sound engineer, Paul Bevan, had a computer set up at a table off to the side. For a few of the songs, Paul played recorded tracks with drums and sound effects, which Deni, Austin, and Kevin played along too. It was an interesting idea, and the recorded tracks changed things up and gave the songs a different mood than the ones performed previously. As the end of the evening neared, Deni had an impressive solo on her electric blue fiddle, which was truly inspired. For Deni Bonet and her band’s last song, “I Want To Get Arrested”, they brought Curtis Eller back out, and the four musicians played together for the finale. Everyone fit in well together, both with their instruments and playing, and I thought Curtis Eller and Deni Bonet as a double-bill was a great combo. Although their music and styles are different, they complement each other well, and the show at the Rosendale Cafe was a lot of fun.

Videos of Curtis Eller:

Taking Up Serpents Again
Moses In The Bulrushes
Hide That Scar
Save Me Joe Louis

Videos of Deni Bonet:

Last Girl On Earth
Slow Vibration
Don’t Turn Away From Love
I Want To Get Arrested

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