I was looking forward to this because (1) a new (for me) venue and (2) Cory would be playing with a band, which I have never seen before.
Coney Island Baby is a small bar on Avenue A off 10th Street. There’s a small stage in the back left corner and small banquettes across from the bar and on either side of the stage. A disco ball hang in the middle of the stage and above the floor to the right of the stage. There is a smoke machine hanging on the back wall of the stage that was used at random times for two of the acts. A chandelier hangs in front of a door to another room in the back with more banquettes and a smaller bar. It was being used as the green room for the musicians (and a large green room it was) but I think they opened it up when the bands were finished.
The only thing Coney Island about the place is photo wallpaper of one of the rides in the WC.
The sound was good. Nice and clear. The only thing that kept bugging me was the constant ground hum. That should have been something easily fixed.
Doors were at 7pm and the show started at 7:30pm, so I got there early so that I could get a seat or suss out where to stand if there were no seats. I was there very early (the second person to arrive) so I got one of the seats right by the stage. The first act went on stage on time, as did the rest – in fact I think Cory was a little earlier than his start time of 9pm – so, everything was over by 10pm. As the crowd grew, I noticed one Frank Turner t-shirt and one Lucero t-shirt.
Storm Kid is a band but Charlie Geyer did not have his band with him. It was just Geyer on stage with an electric guitar. He was wearing a Bruins t-shirt, which I thought was brave of him but then realized I was in a neighborhood where no one was actually from NYC, so they would not care about someone wearing the t-shirt from a Boston team. If he were playing in the heart of Queens or Brooklyn (not the trendy neighborhoods), they would have booed him off stage. Songs were okay. Maybe having the band would have helped, but I do not think so. He had written a song about not being too enthusiastic when his wife thought she was pregnant. Turns out she was pregnant and she was there at the show.
Trapper Schoepp made me think of Rhett Miller the moment he hit the stage. Like Geyer, he got right up into the mic and was singing his lyrics with all his heart. But Schoepp held himself a certain way, he yelled into the mic a certain way, he shook his head a certain way, and he shook his hips a certain way – all in a way that said, “I’ve seen this before.” Then before he performed “On, Wisconsin,” he told the story of the song. Bob Dylan had written the song about 57 years ago and put it away. The handwritten lyric sheet was up for auction and went for something like $30,000. Schoepp could not afford to buy it but he decided to finish the song and add music. He put it out on the internet. Billboard took notice. Rolling Stone took notice. Bob Dylan’s lawyers took notice. They asked Schoepp if he would like be co-author of the song with Dylan. The story of getting to co-author a song in a roundabout way with your idol Bob Dylan was similar to Rhett’s story about “Champaign, Illinois.” And Schoepp’s inflection when he spoke was also similar to Rhett’s inflection even though the accents are different. When Schoepp did a half-Townshend on his acoustic guitar, I thought I was going to shriek. Does Rhett have a love child? Or was this guy just a huge Old 97’s fan?
Schoepp took advantage of the low stage and long guitar chord to walk into the audience several times with his guitar. “Ballad of Olof Johnson” was a song about his great-great grandfather, who spent a winter in South Dakota living in his overturned wagon inside a hole he had dug. “Ogallala” was written when the band was stuck in Ogallala, Nebraska during a snowstorm. “What You Do to Her” has an upbeat melody belying its subject matter – a song about a sexual assault. I would not put his songs in the same category as Rhett’s but he’s still young.
His brother Tanner plays electric bass and sings back up vocals. They seem to be the core members of the band with the other members changing a lot. I think the lead guitarist was Matt Miller, who looked like he belonged in an entirely different band (and sometimes played solos as such). Jake (?) on drums was also very good but also could have easily been in another band based on looks and chemistry.
Cory Branan and the Low Standards also hit the stage running. After the second song he said, “There’s a bat mitzvah at 10, so we’re just gonna blast through this.” Every time I watch him, I am not only blown away by his lyrics but his incredible guitar playing. He does things to a guitar and gets sounds out of it that you do not see very often, if at all. He’s punk or heavy metal on the guitar and country in his voice and smartass or sweetness in his lyrics.
He surprised me by giving us “Prettiest Waitress in Memphis” as the second song. As always, there was a mix of new songs and old songs. We sang along with the old songs and listened carefully to the new songs. He introduced one of the new songs as another song where he can’t hit the notes because he can’t stop smoking (“Come on If You Want to Come”). Another new song had an unreliable narrator (“Picked the Pocket of God”). He also said someone at an American Aquarium yelled “Whoo” during the song, which showed that he was not listening to the lyrics. “This song has no layers. Just about whiskey.” (“Sour Mash”).
The electric bassist and drummer he had accompanying him were wonderful and, of course, I could not catch their names. He said they were the best musicians in Memphis. And they were pretty damn good.
Another new song (“Ricochet”) had a 60s feel. After “Yeah, So What?” he threw the capo to the floor and then could not find it when he needed it for a later song.
At the merch table I told him that I have been working around angry all the time because of what is happening in this country, especially with what is happening lately. He said, “Oh man, my wife’s head is exploding.” I said it was nice to lose myself in some great music for a little while. Thank you.
I Only Know
The Prettiest Waitress in Memphis
Price and Cost
Come on If You Want to Come
Picked the Pocket of God
Tall Green Grass
Yeah, So What?
You Got Through
A Girl Named GO
By Carene Lydia Lopez