Friday, January 20, 2012
One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine
I first saw Roy Davis with his band Roy Davis and the Dregs on my 28th birthday in 2008 at One Longfellow Square. They opened for a band I absolutely love and miss dearly since they split to go solo—the everybodyfields. I thought Roy was great and bought his album “Dead Weight” that night and have listened to it often. Here’s a link to all things Roy Davis and The Coloradas where you can check out all of their music.
When the days are short and light is limited, knowing there will be cute boys playing instruments on a Friday night makes it an easy sell to get my teacher friends to stay out late with me. My friends Michelle and Audrey readily agreed to join me at One Longfellow Square to see This Way and Roy’s new project, The Coloradas. I was frankly expecting more flannel. There were a lot of thermal shirts, though—I’d believe it if someone said LL Bean had sponsored the show. Check out The Coloradas’ official video for “Crooked Youth” here to get a taste of what they’re up to.
I had never seen Portland-based Americana band This Way before. They were great. You can check them out at their website. Lead singer Jay Basiner had a lot of good energy. He claimed to be feeling a little under the weather, but I wouldn’t have guessed it. He said he’d played a little too hard at Sugarloaf and he was paying the price. He joked about how wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Heart had won a WWF championship with a 105 degree fever, so he’d push through. Having grown up a wrestling fan (am I admitting this?) with a poster of the Ultimate Warrior on my wall until high school, I was amused.
Their drummer was away at another gig, so Jay played a lot of foot percussion while also singing and playing the guitar and harmonica. I was impressed. I thought their harmonies were beautiful and Andrew Martelle rounded out the sound with his captivating fiddle and mandolin playing. They had a full sound, and played a mellower set that fit well in One Longfellow’s intimate listening room. I especially liked “New York City,” “Balance Beam,” and “Take It All (Or Leave It All Behind)” from their album “Goodbye Forever” that I named my own price for when I downloaded it from their bandcamp site. This Way also has a YouTube channel where you should check them out. I especially like their rockin’ version of “Take It All (Or Leave It All Behind)” from their “Goodbye Forever” release show in 2011 at Port City Music Hall.
This Way will be playing with Boston’s Kingsley Flood (I graduated from Bowdoin with their lead singer) and Tricky Britches at Empire Dine and Dance on February 25th.
After the fastest breakdown of a stage I’ve seen in ages (James from OLS rushed to be sure we’d all be out by the 11PM parking ban), The Coloradas took the stage. This was the night of the debut of their self-titled album featuring Roy Davis, Bernie Nye, Joe Walsh, Steve Roy, Amanda Kowalski, Calvin Goodale, and Jon Nolan. Not all of those musicians were present, but they were joined by members of The Stowaways and Tricky Britches—all fine musicians.
One Longfellow was quite full that night, but up until then, we’d been a very quiet, attentive audience. Roy broke the ice. He is self-deprecating and funny. We laughed a lot. Bernie nearly poked Roy in the eye with his banjo (the band really squeezes in around a single mic) and Roy joked that he was sorry if he “sprayed head blood all over” us, and that he tries to “say head blood once a show.” We chuckled. It was appreciated humor.
I really liked the first two songs from their album that they played first that night—“Misery” and “This Isn’t Love, Natalie.” The blend of mandolin, banjo, guitar, upright bass, fiddle, and their vocal harmonies were great. Many women would probably be interested in “This Isn’t Love, Natalie”—it goes, “and standing in the rain I felt like singing all my songs for you/But this isn’t love, Natalie/It’s never love until I leave you my key.” Oh, and the guy in the song does eventually give her his key—and then promptly runs away. A torturous reminder that apparently men really are from Mars and women are from Venus and we see the same things so differently. I’d like to hear Natalie’s version of the song.
“Down On My Knees” sounded great. If The Coloradas ever start telling stories about what these songs are about, I’d be curious about this one and “Know Your Enemy” and “Enid” for that matter. They had a friend join them who played a mean harmonica.
The band stepped off stage and Roy invited his brother Calvin up. They played two songs together, with Calvin accompanying Roy on the piano. Both were lovely. They played two of Roy’s “older” songs—“We Are A Lighting Bolt” and “Lie Like the Snow Falls.” I’ve listened to “Lie Like the Snow Falls” more since that night—there is an arresting line in it—“he got a watch with a hand that keeps track of the minutes since she left.” It’s on “Dead Weight” from Roy Davis and the Dregs, which is a great album. The chorus goes “don’t cry when your glass is full/Just lie like the snow falls/Hell is the little things/Love will dance again.”
I was caught a little off guard by “How Little You Needed Love.” It’s heavy, like a lot of their songs are, I think. The chorus is “and when you’re dying it’ll feel good to know/You were alone then/You’re alone now/You showed them/How little you needed love.” I’m sure that song has quite a backstory. The band finished up the night with “Eight Ball Blues,” but the previously quiet crowd stomped and hooted for an encore and the guys obliged. I’m sure everyone there that night is already excited to see both groups again. I certainly am.
I bought the The Coloradas’ debut CD after the show and have listened to it a lot over the past week. I really, really like the album. Every song is good. Bernie’s song “A Brand New Day” is a lovely interlude halfway through. I love his voice—he sounds like an old man in the very best way possible. The lyrics on the album are sometimes simple and straightforward and it’s easy to imagine the story, but sometimes I have almost no idea what’s going on. It keeps me guessing, and I like that. I’ll be ready for more stories about what these songs are about the next time I see The Coloradas. Sam Pfeifle from The Portland Phoenix wrote a good review of the album and you should check it out. Pick up a copy of the album, too.