I’m going to go out of order again to post this recent show since I’m going to see the same artists again tonight and there was a new (to me) artist that I’m excited about. Hopefully this week I will get back to the winter shows I haven’t written up yet.
Garcia’s is the bar attached to the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. This was my first time in the bar for a show. The theater was dark. I was there a half-hour after the doors opened and there were a few people in the bar. It never did fill up – maybe 40 people were there for the concert. I got a seat at the bar and waited. Philly soul and R&B were on the sound system and then it suddenly switched to blues.
At exactly 8pm, Brett Saxon took the stage. He’s originally from Minnesota but lives in Brooklyn now. He’s a singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar and harmonica and he’s got a small mullet and a porn ‘stache. He said he normally plays with a band and I listened to bits of his songs on his site and there’s definitely more energy in those versions. By himself the songs come off as very sad and quiet (you could hear the toilets flushing and the hand dryers from the bathrooms behind the stage). Saxon said that Cory and Jared would be the more punk rock of the night and he was the emotional songwriter that night. The one song I remember was about a cat sitting in the window and all its thoughts as it watched the world go by.
The next artist Jared Hart (The Scandals) is another of those punk folk indie artists in the vein of Chuck Ragan, Cory Branan, Dave Hause, and Ben Nichols, etc. that I like so well. He would fit in seamlessly in Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour. I wasn’t familiar with his work before but I plan on finding out more about him. Hart came out immediately after Saxon finished. Hart is based in NJ and it was kind of refreshing to hear an indie artist not identify himself from Brooklyn. Cory and Saxon came out to watch Hart. Hart starts out loud with a somewhat scratchy voice (not anywhere near Ben Nichols’ territory). There was a lot of Cory energy in his songs and performance. Hart told a funny story about the last time he was in the area and he and his friend were across the street at the Mexican restaurant. His friend began choking and another customer performed the Heimlich and half a burrito came out. Hart didn’t know why his friend, at 40 years old, didn’t know how to chew his food. His friend also finished the rest of the burrito. The song Hart performed was about death and he was glad he wasn’t singing it about his friend. At one point, Hart shouted out to Cory that he couldn’t play guitar like Cory did. Cory responded that he had 10 years on him. Hart also did some strong singing off-mic. He mentioned opening for Skinny Lister and did a cover of Billy Bragg’s “A New England,” which will always put you in my good graces.
Before Cory Branan appeared, rockabilly was playing on the sound system. I did have the first seat at the bar but then people started moving their stools in front of me and then standing in front of me. There weren’t very many people there and they still had to be in front of me! Cory is one of my favorite artists. He’s witty and funny and a killer guitarist. This time I noted that he’d brought an electric guitar in addition to his acoustic. Later he told us that since he couldn’t afford a car for his mid-life crisis he had bought a bunch of pedals instead. His wife told him it wasn’t mid-life since he was already two-thirds of the way through. He started with “Missing You Fierce” and then went into a song from the new album Adios, “You Got Through.” One of the interesting things about Cory is that he will play some new songs for a while before they end up on an album so that you’re already familiar with them by the time they end up on an album. Then we heard “Survivor Blues.” I just adore his guitar playing – he’s playing melody and rhythm and he goes so fast you can’t see his hands but then he’s plucking and banging on the guitar. His voice goes from a whisper to a scream both off- and on-mic and there’s growls and sweetness.
He switched over to the electric and said he was going to play some old stuff and some new stuff and then whatever the fuck we wanted. “Tall Green Grass” was the next song. Before “Walls, MS” he said that if you ever see a sign for it you should just drive by. Cory is proud to be from Mississippi but “it’s complicated.” One of the pedals he used made him sound like Jerry Garcia, which he said he’d never use again but he had to use it now because of the club. During the song, he played a real guitar solo. Then he said, “Fuck it. I’m going to use it [the pedal] every night and my set is going to be four hours long.” He was having so much fun and he threw his head back and shouted, “All the notes!” For “Prettiest Waitress in Memphis” he changed the age from 23 to 29 because it was getting unseemly now that he’s 42 years old. One couple was singing along (which Cory thanked them for afterwards) and the woman sang 23 before Cory got to it because he always pauses before he sings the age and she didn’t pause. Next was the first song on the new album “I Only Know,” which reviewers have compared to Buddy Holly. Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!) appears on that song on the album and I hope that one day I get to hear Cory with a full band. We heard another new song “Imogene.” Before the next song, the guitar suddenly started playing by itself (something going on with the looping pedal?) and Cory said, “Let’s see what Jerry wants to play. Fucking computers.” He next played the song “The Vow” that he wrote for his father after he died. He wasn’t going to put it on the album because he thought it was too specific and personal but his wife convinced him to share it. I’m glad she did. The first line reminds me of a short story I wrote about my parents (“My old man was young once/Or so the photo album claimed”).
It was back to the acoustic guitar for a request, “The Corner,” and Cory said, “There are people I’ll do anything in the world for. I just hope they don’t ask.” A guy from the audience said he would bring a friend if Cory played there again. Despite there only being 40 people there were still people talking loudly during his set, in addition to the couple singing along. The next song was about blood and shots – Cory said he was getting hate mail for the song and he didn’t know how you could argue the point for police brutality. “Another Nightmare in America” is from the point of view of racist cop. While he was playing “Cold Blue Moonlight” I was thinking that Cory could be the lead guitarist in any rock band and still be famous without having written any songs. Then we heard “Bad Man.” “Jolene” is about a girl in Memphis who he never met. She was dancing near the front of the stage at a show when everyone else was wearing black and not dancing.
He went back to the electric and did some looping for the last song “A Girl Named GO” and, again, he was playing the shit out of the guitar. This time he chose a different melody for the song – started with a clave (or some call it a Bo Diddly) beat.
There’s a sweetness to the newer songs that doesn’t appear as often on his older albums. But the angry young man still shows up.
I talked with a Cory briefly after the show. He said he remembered our last conversation in October (it’s okay if he didn’t) and then I let him sell his merch. After I settled with the bartender, I told Cory I’d see him at his next show at Rough Trade and he gave me a hug. I also told Hart how much I’d enjoyed his show and would be following him.
As I left I could see the Metro North 11:17 leaving the station so it was an hour wait for the next train. But it was worth it.
By Carene Lydia Lopez