The Felice Brothers at the Rosendale Cafe

The Felice Brothers have come a long way since the days of playing at The Stewart House, which is the first place I saw them, back before all the hype and headlines. The latest Felice concert I attended? Their “hometown show” at the Rosendale Cafe on Saturday night, which was packed to the max. The band’s first albums (the ones not in prevalent circulation anymore, such as Iantown and Through These Reigns and Gone) have an unmistakable grassroots sound, which has become more hardcore in their newer material. Playing “Billie Jean” as a tribute to Michael Jackson, as they did to open their second set on Saturday (not that I have anything against Michael Jackson), is a long way from their early shows, which were filled with songs by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers, and Hank Williams. Their albums have been going progressively downhill music-wise, and just don’t have the spirit they once did. It’s not that I don’t want The Felice Brothers to evolve — I would certainly never wish for them to remain stagnant — but they haven’t so much evolved as changed. That change is, in my opinion, not for the better. It seems less about the music now, and more about the shock value of the shows. And their fans feed into that. I’m sure to some degree the majority of their fans like the music for the music, but I have to wonder: if you took away Farley acting like a maniac, the swigging of whiskey onstage, and the boys playing too fast (and messily) just to rile the crowd, would the people who “love” The Felice Brothers still love them?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against rock and roll — I happen to be a fan. If it’s good. I unfortunately don’t think The Felice Brothers are. The band opened the show on Saturday with “In The Arms Of Buffalo Bill,” a song that is — ironically enough — on Iantown. The Searcher was playing drums on all the songs except for one, when Dave did. The band was joined by Dean Jones on trombone for most of the night, and at one point they also brought out Rig 1, a rapper and fellow labelmate at Team Love Records, who rapped with Farley. The audience went wild for that. As for me? It’s bad when you have to try to have fun. When you try to have fun and still can’t? Even worse. But I didn’t have fun at the performance in Rosendale, and back in the beginning my joy at hearing their music was uncontrollable. My opinion has nothing to do with Simone leaving the band, things were changing long before he did. The magic of the early days has been lost somewhere along the path The Felice Brothers have traveled down, leaving in it’s wake nothing more than an esoteric memory. The Felice Brothers’ music is now devoid of vitality and fervour (*note: manic behavior should not be confused with vivacity), a painful truth for me to realize and admit since I have been a fan for so long. I still love Ian’s songwriting, but can no longer honestly say I enjoy The Felice Brothers’ music (unless I’m referring to listening to “You’re All Around,” “Steal A Memory,” “Going Going Gone,” any of the other gems on the early albums, or even “Ruby Mae” and “San Antonio Burning” from Adventures of The Felice Brothers Vol. 1). I can say that one of the highlights of the night for me was an especially emotionally rousing version of “Goddamn You, Jim” which the boys played towards the end of the night, before closing the show with Townes Vand Zandt’s “Two Hands,” followed by the “Star Spangled Banner,” and lastly, “Penn Station.”

There’s a shallowness to the music and the scene which upsets me, because it started out much more pure than it is now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go to a Felice Brothers show again. At this point I don’t think I will, but I wish them nothing but happiness and success.

Hey Hey Revolver

Loves Me Tenderly

Murder By Mistletoe


Goddamn You, Jim


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