Life in the Dark, The Felice Brothers

Here are some thoughts on some of the songs Life in the Dark, the latest record from the Felice Brothers. I’d say they got their Americana mojo back, but I don’t think they ever really lost it – more took a stroll down a different path for a while, and have now rejoined the original trail.

Aerosol Ball: A Cajun-inflected delight that is dark commentary on consumerism in a bubbly, danceable disguise. I will never look at the St. Paulie Girl the same way again.

The Felice Brothers | Life In The Dark, "Aerosol Ball"

Jack at the Asylum: I heard the first couple of bars and thought Oh, they did ‘Jack of Diamonds’ again?, which – yes, but also no. It’s Jack of Diamonds, done American Gods-style. The embodied voice of the frontier, slipping through time, hopscotching states; an American everyman, a rambler, a gambler, a long way from home, counting his cards and making his luck, long after his luck has run out, writing us all a note from the “looney bin” that is both warning and entreaty.

The Felice Brothers - "Jack At The Asylum" (Official Audio)

Triumph ’73: Echoes of Vietnam, though “rich man’s war” could just as easily apply to activities in the Middle East. I like to listen to this one when driving through empty farmland under threatening stormy skies. It would probably be good on a time travel soundtrack.

The Felice Brothers - "Triumph '73" (Official Audio)

Plunder: I’m going to be blunt: this is a super bouncy shout-along song about PTSD, an in particular, mood swings, violence and persistent memories of the horrors of war. I didn’t like it the first time I heard it, but – it’s grown on me. Sometimes I still skip past it, though.

The Felice Brothers - "Plunder" - Life In The Dark

Sally!: Nearly-wordless Appalachian porch jam. Excellent company for traffic jams and/or sitting in the back yard in the shade with a cold beverage.

The Felice Brothers - "Sally!" - Radio Woodstock 100.1 - 6/24/16

Diamond Bell: Over six minutes about a dashing female bandit and the innocent boy who loved her, or: Murder, A Love Story. It unfolds slowly and gracefully and the ending pinches my heart every time.

The Felice Brothers - "Diamond Bell" - Radio Woodstock 100.1 - 6/24/16

Sell the House / Chain Me to the Earth: An Appalachian Fields of Athenry. Haunting. Heartbreaking. Also sometimes puzzling – why take the kids to Jacksonville?? Hidden at the end of the recorded version: the true last song, an expression of unmoveable defiance.

The Felice Brothers "Sell This House" (Live @ EXT)

If you’d like to listen to the whole thing, there is a full album stream here.

Favorite Waitress, The Felice Brothers


If Celebration, Florida (2011) was The Felice Brothers taking a hard left out of Americana into a dark, strange corner of indie rock, Favorite Waitress is them – to mix a metaphor somewhat – doubling down on that murky weirdness and swinging for the fences.

It begins with Bird on a Broken Wing, which I had to listen to a couple of times before I really started to like it. In many ways it extends a thread back to River Jordan, the last song on Celebration, Florida, and, as it happens, one of my favorite Felice Brothers songs. River Jordan is a slow burning geyser of hurt and rage; the last time I saw them perform it live was a transcendent experience, but also made me almost certain they were about ready to call it quits on being a band.

They didn’t, though, and Bird on a Broken Wing is the resolution, and, perhaps, ending, of that pain. The narrator has had a moment to breathe and reflect (and heal?) and also, perhaps, find some peace.

Continuing through the tracklist, some of the songs have country roots: Katie Cruel is a slow-burn country-blues stomper; Cherry Licorice contains echoes of a barroom sing along; Lion sounds like something The Band could have written if they had dropped a lot of acid.

But those songs are trifles; smokescreens, even, behind which more complex treasures are hiding.

The real meat of the record is songs like Alien, Meadow of a Dream, Saturday Night Alone, and Constituents, where the Felices slow down and stretch out as only they can, and tell stories full of longing, alien heartbreak and world-weary menace.

And the diamond – and perhaps harbinger of things to come? – is Silver in the Shadow, the last song, which is about surviving work to find love, and starts out slow and thoughtful before expanding into a majestic fuzzy roar.

Verdict: A++, and I look forward to more in this vein.

Guest Post: Joy Goes To SXSW, pt. 1

While I cannot be in Austin this year, NTSIB friend Joy is, and she has graciously agreed to be a roving reporter. Below is her first dispatch. If you want to follow her adventures live, you may do so on Twitter and Instagram.

This year, I am pleased to be NTSIB’s correspondent-at-large in Austin. It’s my first South By Southwest, and I have thrown myself directly into the deep end. Swim along with me here on the blog, with live updates on Twitter!

Since SXSW can be an impenetrably overwhelming mess of day parties, showcases, special sessions, and free shows, I’ve sorted the wheat from the chaff according to my own personal preferences. In reverse order, here are my most-anticipated acts of 2014.

7. Deap Vally

They’re loud. They’re crass. They’re women. And they crochet. This Los Angeles duo has found success in the UK and is on the verge of making it big in America. NTSIB friend Geordie McElroy describes them as “two-thirds of a girl gang” who should be “basically every teen girl’s role models”, and I am inclined to agree. Enjoy a sample of their balls-to-the-wall sound with “Hobo Playa”, off their single End of the World.

Deap Vally-Hobo Playa

Deap Vally plays South By Southwest:

Mar 14, 11pm @ Old School at Trinity Hall

6. Wye Oak

If you have ever listened to this Baltimore duo’s music and thought, “Where is the driving bass line?”, they seem to have read your mind. Their upcoming release, Shriek (out 4/29), will see guitarist Jenn Wazner switching exclusively to electric bass and the band’s music shifting accordingly. Until we hear the results, let’s tide ourselves over on the standout track of their 2011 release, Civilian.

Wye Oak plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 4pm @ Hype Hotel
Mar 13, 10am @ Four Seasons
Mar 13, 11:45pm @ The Parish
Mar 14, 12pm @ Mellow Johnny’s
Mar 14, 4pm @ The Blackheart
Mar 15, TBA @ Red 7

5. mr. Gnome

Another duo, this time from Cleveland, mr. Gnome has long been a NTSIB favorite. Their music, at times a frantic rush of paranoia while at others a sweet hymn to the void, should be heard rather than described. They are also hard at work at a still-secretive fourth album, due later this year. As a retrospective, here is a live session featuring songs from their previous releases.

Through the Turnstyle - mr. Gnome

mr. Gnome will play South By Southwest:

Mar 10, 7pm @ Clive Bar [FREE SHOW]
Mar 12, 3pm @ Cheer Up Charlie’s [FREE SHOW]
Mar 12, 11:30pm @ Javelina’s
Mar 13, 7pm @ Rowdy Saloon
Mar 14, 5:45pm @ The Tiniest Bar in Texas

4. Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield, the darling of Kent, Ohio (as well as an act NTSIB has been following since her first release), is preparing to drop her fourth record: Make My Head Sing … (4/15). Over the course of her career, this young guitarist’s tone has shifted from gorgeous minimalist folk to country-influenced dance pop to grunge-inspired noise rock. A sincere, down-to-earth performer, she says she calls her dog on the phone every day of tour — just to chat. Here she is performing “Our Hearts Are Wrong”, from 2011’s Tell Me.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Our Hearts Are Wrong - David Letterman

Jessica Lea Mayfield plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 2:50pm @ Weather Up Bar
Mar 12, 5pm @ Cheer Up Charlie’s [FREE SHOW]
Mar 13, 12am @ Lambert’s

3. Kan Wakan

If you follow any of my social media presences, you have probably noticed that I am quickly becoming a Kan Wakan superfan. This up-and-coming Los Angeles band creates lush music that is like fancy dessert for the ears. Kristianne Bautista’s voice is incredibly, effortlessly deep and rich; her backing band provides intricately orchestrated but not overpowering accompaniment. Watch them play “Forever Found”, off their EP of the same name, and wait for their first full-length to arrive this spring.

Kan Wakan plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 1:55pm @ Red 7
Mar 12, 5:40pm @ Palm Park
Mar 13, 12:30pm @ Palm Door on 6th
Mar 13, 11pm @ Lambert’s
Mar 15, 10am @ Brazos Hall
Mar 15, 2:30pm @ Cedar St Courtyard

2. The Felice Brothers

Paleotrees wouldn’t be Paleotrees — and wouldn’t have met NTSIB — without these guys. This famously raucous five-piece ensemble from Upstate New York has undergone several lineup changes and numerous shifts in musical direction over their career, but they have never lost their freewheeling charm. They do what they want, and we just come along for the ride. Here they play a song off their compilation God Bless You, Amigo.

The Felice Brothers - Dream On (Live @Pickathon 2013)

The Felice Brothers play South By Southwest:

Mar 11, 9:45pm @ Cedar St Courtyard
Mar 13, 12:30pm @ Weather Up
Mar 13, 10:50pm @ Mohawk
Mar 14, 4pm @ The Gatsby

They will also participate in Willie Nelson’s Heartbreaker Banquet, during but apart from SXSW, on March 13 at Willie’s private ranch. (Set time: 3:30PM)

1. Doe Paoro

Doe Paoro, from Brooklyn, is a force to behold. The woman has a compelling, engaging stage presence and a positively terrific voice. Justin Vernon apparently agrees with me about her latent star power, since he sings on her upcoming release Ink On The Walls. Recorded this winter in Vernon’s studio and produced by S.Carey, the album will drop this April; “Walking Backwards”, below, is its lead single .

Doe Paoro - Walking Backwards (Official Audio)

Doe Paoro plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 8:30pm @ Banger’s
Mar 12, 10:15pm @ Holy Mountain
Mar 13, 2pm @ Do512 Lounge

… and I am honored to be part of her crew for some if not all of these shows.

So, Austin: stop by when you can, and I hope to see you there!

– Joy @ Paleotrees

[A version of this list also appears on]

Postcards from the Pit: The Felice Brothers / Yellowbirds / Mail the Horse, Mercury Lounge, 12/31/12

And now, at long last, the promised pictures from the Felice Brothers’ New Years Eve show.

Starting from the beginning, with Mail the Horse:
Yellowbirds were up next; they’re also from Brooklyn, and were an odd little burst of power-pop in the middle of a twangy, fuzzed-out evening:

And then, The Felice Brothers, who played a bunch of crowd favorites (ones I can remember: Frankie’s Gun, Cumberland Gap, Whiskey in my Whiskey, White Limousine, Run, Chicken, Run), surprised us with an appearance by Simone Felice, poured us into the New Year with Take This Bread, ceded their stage to a member of the audience for a (successful!) marriage proposal, and at the end shut the place down with back-to-back covers of Carry That Weight by The Beatles and Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.

Carry That Weight I sang along with out of . . . habit, for lack of a better term. It’s the Beatles, I’m not that keen on them but it’s a communal thing to do, rolling with the crowd-swell for the chorus, acknowledging that 2012 was rough and 2013 may not be much better but no matter what is going on outside, we’re warm, indoors, some of us are not feeling any pain, and we have been able to come together with our band and sing with them.

Smells Like Teen Spirit was electrifying and cathartic. And communal, too, but in a different way. Most of the people there, or at least standing around me, were old enough to actually remember Nirvana when Nirvana was new. And we pretty much all got up on our toes and howled Here we are now / Entertain us / I feel stupid / and contagious and it felt like an exhortation to take the new year by the throat.

The Felice Brothers / Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea / Diamond Doves, Webster Hall, 9/29/11

It’s been almost approximately a year since I last saw the Diamond Doves (formerly the Dearland in Elvis Perkins and Dearland, now doing their own thing) and in that time they’ve changed: they’ve become tighter and more focused, and their drums are bigger and louder and roll like mighty waves.  They were good before, but they’re better now. I’m also pleased to report that they are still making the hipsters dance. Here they are in action:






Next up was Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea. I (once again) had never heard them before and had no idea what to expect. Ladies and gentlemen: this band rocks. Nicole Atkins has an amazing voice – powerful, flexible, commanding, and sultry at the same time – and she and the band bring some serious jams. If you haven’t experienced them yet, you should get on that right away.







And then there were The Felice Brothers, who are on tour right now. The crowd was a little bit flat at first – some of them perhaps hearing songs from Celebration, Florida live for the first time – but they perked right up and made the floor vibrate with their joy when the band launched into familiar favorites like Run, Chicken, Run, White Limosine and, of course, Frankie’s Gun.

The one I was waiting for, though, was River Jordan. It’s one of my favorites, mainly for the steady, thudding, mournful drums; the line about Fuck the House of Blues; and also the point near the end where either the band cuts Ian Felice loose or he breaks free, but either way he’s soaring.

This time it came at the end of the main set, and it was spellbinding, all the way down to the last two minutes or so when various band members stopped playing and walked back into the wings, until it was just the drums ringing out under the lights.

They came back, of course, and the mood changed. They did a cover of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town that made that song expand and thrum with new energy, followed by a raucous rendition of Helen Fry, and then the show really was over. These are some of the pictures I took during the festivities:







And here is one more of the Diamond Doves (& friend), in their capacity as the Felices’ horn section:



Bits: Cure for Pain, Rockhall Spring Benefit, SXSW, Record Store Day, Spinner

  • Cure for Pain, the documentary about the much-missed Mark Sandman will see it’s U.S. debut on April 15 at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.
  • Tickets for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum annual spring benefit go on sale today. The May 14 concert will feature Mavis Staples, Wanda Jackson, Darlene Love and Cyndi Lauper, as well as Curt Smith (Tears for Fears) and Chuck Jackson.
  • Just because you’re sick of hearing about SXSW and its aftermath, that’s no reason to miss out on the good stuff. You can hear and/or see a TV on the Radio performance here, a Jessica Lea Mayfield performance here and a Felice Brothers performance here.
  • Record Store Day approacheth (April 16) and now the official RSD release list is available to help decide if you’ll have to go without food or gas for the next couple of months.
  • Lots of good shit on Spinner’s Listening Party, including Radiohead, Dirty Beaches, Royal Bangs and Willie Nelson with Wynton Marsalis. Check it out.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Titus Andronicus/The Felice Brothers

NTSIB loves the Felice Brothers. NTSIB also loves boys in dresses. Now we can enjoy our two great loves together! Hurray for Halloween!

Continuing my ongoing life-theme of music related traveling, last weekend NTSIB friend Joy and I drove up some twisty mountain roads to Poughkeepie to see Titus Andronicus and the Felice Brothers. Trivia: Joy first saw The Felice Brothers when they were playing on the subway platforms in Brooklyn; I only learned about them this past January, and for all of the times I’ve seen them this year, this show was the first one in an actual club. And it was wonderful.


Titus Andronicus was once again amazing. The crowd was of course much smaller than the one at Webster Hall, and during the first song I thought they might be a little bit lukewarm. Oh, was I ever wrong. As soon as the second song started, they began moshing. And I do mean moshing; there was hair, beer and limbs flying everyehere, Joy almost got knocked over four times, there were dudes in tweed sport coats pummeling the bejsus out of each other in a circle pit during almost all fourteen minutes of Battle of Hampton Roads, and it was fantastic.


Then the Felice Brothers came out. They had gotten properly into the spirit of the weekend and busted out some costumes. I’ll just let the pictures do the most of the rest of the talking:





Various members of the Diamond Doves came along to play the horns and the occasional drum, and they also dressed up for the occasion:


And there was a costum contest in the middle of the show. Here’s Ian Felice with his favorite, the girl who was dressed as a refrigerator:


And in conclusion, one from the encore. This is the one that Joy leaned over to say “I like that one” after I took it:


As for the music – I’m completely useless with setlists, and can only tell you that the songs they played included Run, Chicken, Run, White Limosine, River Jordan, Frankie’s Gun, Ballad of Lou the Welterweight, and Take This Bread, and that overall it was much more up-tempo than they have been recently. By which I mean, they didn’t play Damn You, Jim this time, to my everlasting relief. It’s a beautiful song, it’s just I find it unutterably depressing. (Song I really wish they would play live: Cooperstown.) In any case, it was a great night, and a great show.

— Jennifer

Bits: The Black Keys, Andrew Bird, Neil Young, Sweet By and By, the Felice Brothers

  • With the proceeds from a benefit concert played in Akron, Ohio, last autumn to honor Alfred McMoore – the artist who inadvertently named the band – the Black Keys Alfred McMoore Memorial Endowment Fund has been established to support community services for Akron residents like McMoore who suffered from schizophrenia.
  • Andrew Bird will reprise his popular Gezelligheid concerts in December with dates in DC, Boston and Chicago.
  • Neil Young’s highly-anticipated, Daniel Lanois-produced album Le Noise is up on NPR’s First Listen.
  • A reminder for those in Northern California: The Yolo Throwdown Car and Music Festival is coming up this weekend, featuring the Sweet By and By, who are slated to hit the stage around 3:15 P.M.
  • Our good friend Digger has been counting down the top ten Felice Brothers songs of their career so far, which includes the brilliant “Marie”.


Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Postcards from Disparate Voyage

The theme for my concert-going this summer seemed to be “voyages” and in particular water voyages, both to the water, or at least a couple of different beaches, and also on the water, specifically, the East River. As the temperature cools and the fall rainy season drifts in, I bring you some postcards from my last couple of trips:


Willie Nelson, Circus Maximus Theater, Ceaser’s Atlantic City: The show was a little bit more subdued than I was expecting, perhaps a concession to the venue, the age of the audience (there were people in the front row celebrating their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary), or a reflection of Willie Nelson also getting up there (77 and still touring!), or some combination of those things. But it was still a great show. It was, in many ways, something of a relief to be able to just sit down and listen to someone sing familiar songs, undistracted by festival crowds or complicated stage business. He did, among others, Good Hearted Woman, All the Girls I’ve Loved Before and City of New Orleans, and I left refreshed, as if I had been visiting with old friends.


Local Natives/We Barbarians/Young Man, The Beach at Governor’s Island: Young Man was kind of dreamy and pleasant to listen to while half-dozing on the sand; We Barbarians woke me up with their more muscular, drum-driven sound, and then Local Natives came on and got everyone dancing. They’re all a little bit more jam-band-y than I normally go for — I found myself thinking I bet this sounds better in southern California, where it’s sunny all the time and they have palm trees that don’t glow in the dark — but on the whole it was a pleasant way to spend a summer evening.


The Diamond Doves

The Felice Brothers/Diamond Doves, Rocks Off Concert Cruise, East River, NY: You may recognize the Diamond Doves from their alternate incarnation as Elvis Perkins in Dearland’s back-up band. I had never heard them in that context, but doing their own thing they were pretty great. (Especially the guy playing the horn and the keyboard at the same time. Now that is multi-tasking!) And the Felices were, of course, their usual rockin’ selves, though the set was, once again, kind of heavy. Most of my pictures are of the Diamond Doves; the boat was packed and by the time the Felices came on I was too far back and too short to get anything good. I reckon y’all know what they look like by now anyway.

IMG_2369 IMG_2390

William Beckett and Michael Guy Chislett, The Academy Is . . . (top); Gene Simmons, KISS (bottom)

KISS/The Academy Is . . ./The Envy, Jones Beach Theater: When this tour was announced earlier this summer, the part of the Internet that keeps up with TAI . . . did a double-take, turned to each other and said WHAT?? and IS THIS A JOKE?? Now that I’ve seen the results, I’m even more curious about who came up with this particular line-up. The Envy, of Toronto, Canada, were vaguely gothy hard-rock; all I can really tell you is they didn’t get lost in the arena, which is easy to do at Jones Beach. Then TAI . . . bounced out and did a solid set, pulling mainly from their somewhat heavier back catalog rather than their newier, poppier work and winding up with a cover of Fox on the Run. I enjoyed them tremendously, but the rest of the KISS audience seemed to be politely and quietly baffled. Then KISS came out amid fire and lights, and I hung around to watch the spectacle until I just couldn’t take one more minute of Gene Simmons’ tongue waggling on the jumbotron. I found they left me pretty cold, all things considered. Odd, perhaps, given my fondness for fire, glitter and ridiculous costumes, but I just couldn’t get into it. Also noted: high volume of attendees that were both a) kindergartners and b) wearing full faces of KISS make-up, which was adorable, but also underscored how the whole thing was more carnival than rock concert.

— Jennifer

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Newport Folk Festival, Part II

And here’s part two of Jennifer’s Newport odyssey.

Day 2

I had kind of had my fill of the festival crowd the day before, so on Sunday I was a terrible musical correspondent and spent the morning wandering around Newport looking at historic homes. The Mansions, as they are called, are the former vacation “cottages” of various 19th century robber barons. This is the back yard of the one called The Elms, and Louis XIV would feel right at home, not least because they have some of his wifes’ pillows in a case in their upstairs hallway:


In the afternoon I hopped a water taxi (can I tell you how much I LOVE water taxis? A lot!!) and went back out to the Festival for the Felice Brothers:


James Felice, Ian Felice, and Christmas

They played an oddly dirge-heavy set, though they did do funky music-hall versions of both Greatest Show on Earth and Frankie’s Gun. When they were finished it was time for me to leave and wind my weary way back up to Providence to catch the train home.


Daffodils outside the train station in Providence.

Final thoughts: I didn’t see enough of the acts to comment on the musical mix, but I can say both this festival and Clearwater back in June have been an interesting contrast the kinds of festivals I usually go to, like the original Lollapalooza (hi, I’m old), Bamboozle and Warped Tour. It was a little strange being surrounded by grown-ups and allowed to keep the cap for my bottle of overpriced iced tea and seeing people eating real food with actual utensils while lounging barefoot on the lawn in their folding chairs. All things considered, however, I’d do it again next year if there were bands playing that I wanted to see. Though I’d probably be marginally more sensible and make a long weekend of it.

— Jennifer