Diamond Doves and AA Bondy at the Bearsville Theater

Despite my enthusiasm for live music, not every musician could make me reschedule pre-existing plans and get me out on a Tuesday night even though the next day I would be faced with an early morning. AA Bondy is one of the select few who can. He was playing at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY last Tuesday, and not having seen him perform in a long time — much too long, in fact — I was not going to pass up a chance to do so.   Opening for AA Bondy was a band called Diamond Doves, featuring musicians from Elvis Perkins’ backing band, among others. This gang stands apart from that limited identity, however, and are not to be bound to it in any way. The members of Diamond Doves have a great sound all their own, one that is both vintage but at the same time distinctly modern. The musicians switched things up on each song, exchanging instruments and places on-stage. One constant was a heavy bass line, the driving force behind the persistent lyrics. The musicians of Diamond Doves are well versed in poetry and politics, and the two aspects form a striking union in the band’s music. Each song is a piece of personal expression, no matter what the message being delivered is. At times the music sounded like indie rock, yet at other moments it contained a sincere, stark tenderness. The energy of Diamond Doves is refreshing, and the band members attack their instruments and music with eagerness and merriment. As AA Bondy’s set drew near, the lights dimmed and people crowded around the stage sitting on the floor. These aspects combined created a mystical ambiance. Many sat cross-legged, hands clasped almost prayer-like, as candles resting on the bar flickered, the shadows they created dancing on the counter. AA Bondy’s music is a juggernaut, leaving nothing in its wake untouched, and there’s no denying Bondy is in his element when he performs. His command over his audience is powerful and rarely seen, and all that’s required of him to make them gaze or close their eyes in silence is that he simply play. That’s all. Such is the power of AA Bondy’s presence and prowess. His songs are full of a potency that draws from human experience, whether it be suffering or joy, and Bondy plays with purity. There’s nothing pretentious or phony about him, either as a person or a musician, and that is something people admire and respect. The crowd was deathly silent, entranced by Bondy’s tales that he so intriguingly spun. AA Bondy’s music has gone through a lot of reinvention, and many of the songs he performed in Bearsville were quite different from how I’m used to hearing them. Joining him at the show were Macey Taylor on bass and Ben Lester on drums and pedal steel guitar. Some of the arrangements made the songs almost unrecognizable until AA Bondy began reciting the lyrics, and I loved hearing the music performed in a new way. Bondy sang with a weariness that seemed to have crept past his bones into his being, but also with an enigmatic and beautiful grace. Somehow he manages to deliver stunning songs that contain both disquietude and nonchalance. He threw his guitar around a lot, alternately letting it hang from his slender frame and holding it to the heavens, strumming with vengeance. At times he would kick up the distortion, letting it override melody, projecting the music into a surrealist realm. During the last song, madness  really ensued: every member of Diamond Doves jumped on stage to join Bondy and his band. Crashing sounds rose and fell from the short-lived ensemble, and the other musicians continued to play even after AA Bondy had stopped and was stepping from the stage. The rest of the musicians finished out the spontaneous free-form song that they all contributed a little piece to, as the audience at last rose to their feet from their respective places on the floor or chairs to show their support and enthusiasm at the night’s close.

Videos from the concert:

Diamond Doves – Drop The Nickel

AA Bondy – Your Fire

AA Bondy – Rapture (Sweet Rapture)

AA Bondy – Vice Rag

AA Bondy-  Killed Myself When I Was Young (finale)

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