Spottiswoode & His Enemies at the Main Street Public House

I wish I had enemies as cool as Spottiswoode’s… Jonathan Spottiswoode is a poet/musician/filmmaker who was raised in London and currently resides in NYC. His “enemies” are actually the members of his band, which is called Spottiswoode & His Enemies. They were playing at the Main Street Public House on Friday night and — even though my week had been crazy and I was exhausted (nothing a little home-brewed Kombucha, courtesy of my sister, couldn”t cure) — I couldn’t resist going to the show. What, I couldn’t… Spottiswoode & His Enemies had played at the pub a year and a half ago and, although I wasn’t at that show, I had seen Spottiswoode without his band at the pub once before, when he played a show along with Amy Correia and Kenny White back in November. He’s a talented writer and singer, and seeing his band with him was amazing. Granted, they quite literally took up half the pub, but the crowd somehow managed to squeeze themselves in to hear the fantastic music that took place.

Spottiswoode plays guitar and sings, and the Enemies are Candace DeBartolo on saxophone and vocals, Kevin Cordt on trumpet and vocals, Tony Lauria on piano and accordion, John Young on bass, Konrad Meissner on drums, and Riley McMahon on tambourine, shakers, mandolin, electric guitar, glockenspiel, and pint glass (yes, really. He played it with the glockenspiel sticks). The band has been together a long time (with the exception of Konrad Meissner who recently replaced Tim Vaill as the drummer) and, although Spottiswoode is the “conductor,” if you will, from an observers point of view there are no egos in the band; the musicians simply work together in harmony to produce art in a most magnificent form.  Spottiswoode’s vocals are gravelly yet sweet – perfect for delivering his prolific songwriting – and his band sounded really great backing him. Their songs are truly bizarre, and during Friday’s concert the musicians went into long jam sessions in the middle of most. The music was free of restraint and curled in undulation, not limited to the structure of time or space. One note vanished into the next, as the members swayed and interplayed with one another. They draw inspiration from countless sources, and are equally comfortable playing songs that sound like Balkan folk dances (with an avante-garde, slightly demonic folk rock twist, of course), slow and sultry brass-laden jazz numbers so genuine you can almost taste the smoke from a misty night club back in the thirties, or crazed fast-tempo waltzes that get progressively more disturbed (such as one of my personal favorites, “That’s What I Like”). Although they are somewhat of a NYC darling band (not necessarily by their own accord), Spottiswoode & His Enemies’ sound fit surprisingly well at the Main Street Public House, and it seemed perfectly natural to sit at the pub listening to them. Their music  can be jazzy and bluesy, penetrating the mind of the listener, but is eternally uplifting. If any other musician tried to fashion themself after Spottiswoode they would just sound stupid, but he himself is a master, and just the right amount of unbalanced when he performs. A concert by his band is like a circus, and Spottiswoode & His Enemies are trapeze artist’s; it’s a fine line between genius and insanity, and they walk it well.

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