Orb Mellon and Brownbird Rudy Relic at The Black Swan

The night started off with a glass shattering behind the bar and only got wilder… Orb Mellon opened for Brownbird Rudy Relic at The Black Swan in Tivoli, NY on Friday night, and if Brownbird’s in the house, you know something is getting broken! (Whether it be him or the furniture). He’s actually injured himself pretty badly at shows in the past… A few examples: bruising his spleen, causing him to spit up blood, or perhaps falling off the stage onto a table with candles, at which point both musician and table buckled to the floor, hence Brownbird not only cut himself on the glass, but also burned his skin on hot wax. I didn’t witness either of those “events” firsthand, I was only informed of them by Brownbird (and he proudly says that he continued to play during both), but his shows are definitely not for the faint of heart. Granted, I believe the two scenarios listed above took place at slightly hardcore grungy punk clubs… As Brownbird admits, it’s hard to find his niche, and he plays a wide assortment of venues. At The Black Swan, the glass was actually dropped by the staff there, although a chair was later attacked by Mr. Relic…

Just to give you a little information about The Black Swan, well, there actually isn’t much to give. What I can tell you is that it’s a somewhat crazy (they had an arm wrestling match scheduled before the concert on Friday night, where everyone dressed up in personas), small fun place that is a popular hangout of the nearby Bard College students. The bar has neither a website nor a phone number, so you never know who’s going to be playing there, unless you see it listed on the artist’s site (which I did), or simply happen to show up! Orb Mellon and Brownbird Rudy Relic have played a show there once before, which got pretty rowdy. Friday was a little more subdued, but only a little. In as small and relaxed a room as The Black Swan is, there is a connection that exists between the musicians and the audience, and a comfortable banter that takes place. Honestly, in what other setting could blues ukulele – as played by Orb Mellon for a portion of his set – seem perfectly natural and normal? There were points of surrealism during the night, but hey, it’s good to have reality challenged once in a while — I think. As for BB, he’s a tall slender guy who during his performances frequently curls over his guitar, contorting his body around the instrument. He also seems to like incorporating violence against furniture into his shows… The last time at The Black Swan it was a bench that he stomped on until it splintered and broke, this time it was a chair, as I mentioned. For such a lightweight, his stomps pack quite a punch! At one point on Friday, I was afraid he’d go straight through the floor… Being that Brownbird is asthmatic, I was also a little worried that he might pass out. He even said, “Well, I have a show in Providence, RI tomorrow, so hopefully I won’t die. But if I do, so what”, to which someone yelled out, “Yeah man!!!” (Brownbird obviously – or maybe not so obviously – did not die). He’s really quite an enigma, Brownbird Rudy Relic… Talk to him and you’ll find a calm, collected, and eloquent person, see a show and you’ll find a madman jumping around. The last few minutes of the concert on Friday were spent by the audience directing Brownbird on how best to take out his chair for good, offering suggestions on the angles of his jumps that they thought would be most efficient (their brainstorming eventually paid off). He then made all the people in the pub come up front and crowd around him while he sang his last song a cappella, and asked that they sing along to the chorus, which they did while clapping and stomping along.

*Brownbird had CD’s for sale for whatever people wanted to donate. Acceptable forms of payment included: Vegan food (he’s a vegan), money, and hugs. I may not agree with the destruction of a perfectly good chair or bench, but I find his method of trade for CD’s very refreshing.

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