A terrible pun could have been made about death and taxes but thankfully the IRS changed the filing due date and prevented me from doing so. What caught my eye was the name of the band – how cool is O’Death as a band name? – and when I read the blurb that said they were another modern American roots band I thought they’d be fun to check out. By the time Friday night rolled around both rtb and I were not really in the mood to go out but after a few emails we decided that since the show was only $12 and we’d never been to the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn it seemed like a no-brainer.
The bar itself looks like a typical Williamsburg bar. The back wall of the bar is a glass wall looking into the concert area so rtb and I were able to sit at the bar and have a drink and then go into the back room as soon as the first band got on stage. It’s set up similarly as the Bell House in that it’s wider than deep but it’s smaller. The sound was good but not great. I could hear each of the instruments very well but the vocals were sometimes muddy.
Country Mice used to be We Are Country Mice and they’re from Kansas originally and now are based in Brooklyn. There’s a young blond lead vocalist on guitar, a young man with dark hair and a cropped cut on lead guitar, a Lyle Lovett/David Lynch haired young man on bass, and a young man with a mustache and glasses on drums. Their names are Ben Bullington, Jason Rueger, Kurt Kuehn, and Mike Feldman. Their sound is generic pop/indie. I can’t say there was anything about them that stood out as a band lyrically, musically, or as performers.
The set up for Grandchildren took a long time and once they came out you could see why. Right up front were two drum kits. One drummer played the drums pretty much throughout and the other switched to bass sometimes. The bass player also played keyboards, drums, and trombone and appeared to be the leader. There was an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, and another keyboard player who also played trumpet. One of the things that cracked me up about the long sound check was the drummer having each part of his kit eq’d. When you added all the other instruments it reminded me of the Japanese who spend so much time learning how to center clay on a wheel and once they become expert at that, they create a piece and then at the last moment they smack it off-center. Most of the instruments had effects on them making them sound like synths. The music was way too close to progressive rock for my taste so it was definitely off-center.
O’Death is Bob Pycior (electric fiddle), Gabe Darling (banjo, ukulele), Greg Jamie (vocals, acoustic guitar), David Rogers-Berry (drums) Jesse Newman (bass), Dan Sager (electric guitar). While in the club watching the first two bands I could look into the bar and see it was still crowded in there. As soon as O’Death came on stage the bar emptied out and the club filled up. The audience knew all the lyrics and danced for every song. It was the last gig of their current tour and the drummer’s birthday (he recently underwent treatment for cancer) and a few times the drummer would stand and grab the ceiling and count off. The music definitely has that American traditional/roots sound and you can hear that clearly on their webpage but live the electric fiddle and the addition for a couple of songs of the trombone player from Grandchildren gave the songs a klezmer/Romani Gypsy feel. The banjo is much more prominent in a lot of the recorded versions of the songs but the Eastern European quality still comes through. Think Gorgol Bordello with the Gypsy filtered through Appalachia instead of CBGBs.
All in all a fun night and definitely worth $12.
By Carene Lydia Lopez