Live review: The Felice Brothers @ the Hi-DiveBy Jonathan Gang | May 4th, 2011 | No Comments »
The Felice Brothers are growing up. The upstate New York roots-rockers, whose newest album, “Celebration Florida,” drops May 10, have come a long way from the down-home, rootsy, and, as some would have it, Basement Tapes-era Band sound of their 2008 self-titled debut. That album and its follow up, 2009’s “Yonder is the Clock” garnered a good deal of attention for standout tracks like “Frankie’s Gun” and “Whiskey in My Whiskey,” but received a fair amount of critical poo-pooing from the press for its perceived reliance on classic influences like the aforementioned Band and Bob Dylan.
Despite any qualms about the way the Felices’ influences tend to bleed through in the studio, however, the group’s live sound has become something all its own, a ramshackle tour through Americana with nods to garage rock and punk that is as marked by its boundless energy as by its (at times) endearing noisy sloppiness. The group received a big reputation boost after their now-legendary set at the 2008 Newport folk festival, where they soldiered on unplugged and unamplified after a torrential thunderstorm cut the power to their stage. The passion that allowed that band to play to that particular crowd through the elements was fully on display at Denver’s Hi-Dive last night, as the band bashed their way through the bouncy folk and garage-y stomp of their first two albums, and, surprisingly, the dance beats and 808s of the new disco-folk sound that appears to be taking shape on the tracks from their upcoming disc.
The songs demonstrating this new direction, which made up a solid chunk of their near-two hour set, were interesting to say the least, blending twitchy drum machines and synths with the accordions, fiddles and guitars that are the band’s bread and butter. It was a bit of an awkward marriage, at times recalling the sound of two different songs playing at once through the same speakers between the electronics and instruments. However, the idea of dance-country-folk (and no, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” doesn’t count) is certainly an interesting one and, when pulled off with the kind of intensity a band like the Felices can bring to it, one can’t help thinking it might take shape into something greater with time. It’s a situation that captures the Felices themselves in a nutshell: a great young band, rough around the edges but brimming with energy, enthusiam and potential, still looking to become comfortable in their own skin. If they can pull it off, the possibilities could be endless.
Jonathan S. Gang is a Denver-based writer, musician and general adventurer.