The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world. –F. Scott Fitzgerald
Well hey, New York. Here we are, about a month in. Winter Storm Jonas gave me an excuse to curl up in my 9:30 Club sweatshirt (miss you, DC) and go through photos from a series of dance-away-those-winter-blues shows. I’ll share these pics & tunes with you over the next few posts. Let’s start with some Alabama soul from St. Paul & The Broken Bones and rootsy rock from Banditos.
“For all y’all in the front row, I’m sorry. It’s gonna be like Sea World–” Paul Janeway warned on the second of two sold-out evenings in New York (the first at Carnegie Hall, the second at Bowery Ballroom). We loved every bit of it, sweat and all.
Janeway’s soulful, no-holds-barred vocals sound like something from another era. The Birmingham band’s frontman was groomed to be a preacher, though he wryly and readily admits that “if me and God had a Facebook status, it would be ‘complicated.'”
But gospel and Deep South roots are apparent in the music of St. Paul & The Broken Bones. There’s something about the revival atmosphere Janeway creates — the grasping of hands as he moves around the floor, the rafter-shaking invocations, the brow-mopping — that sure feels like fiery communal confession/salvation.
St. Paul & the Broken Bones is composed of Janeway (lead vocals), Browan Lollar (guitars, vocals), Jesse Phillips (bass), Allen Branstetter (trumpet), Ben Griner (trombone, tuba), Al Gamble (piano, organ), and Andrew Lee (percussion).
Pick up their full-length, “Half the City,” here.
The first time I saw this Nashville-by-way-of-Birmingham six-piece, they were on tour with the Old 97’s. I felt a tad intimidated when Banditos stepped out on the 9:30 Club stage — all that long hair and ink, denim and leather, and the determined glimmers in their eyes. Then they started playing — and we quickly realized that along with the power and flash, next to the garage punk and the southern yawp, is also soulful, slinky sweetness.
To quote a fellow fan, “she [vocalist Mary Beth Richardson] is Janis Joplin reincarnated.” And to paraphrase an audience member, “Holy mother, they’re channeling Dylan and Clapton and Joplin. F*ckin’ awesome.”
With their traveling songs and drinking songs, tunes fast and slow, and the trading off of lead vocals between Richardson (tambourine), Corey Parsons (guitar), and Stephen Pierce (banjo), Banditos offers a robust sonic mix anchored by bandmates Jeff Salter (guitar), Danny Vines (bass), and Randy Wade (drums).
For the uninitiated, Banditos’ Audiotree session is a good place to start. I love the snippets of stories interspersed between songs — not just the discussion of the songwriting process, which I always love learning about, but also the bits of band trivia, like when Stephen shows off the whimsical woodburning on the back of his banjo.
After their set at Bowery Ballroom, I chatted with Stephen about the raccoon. Why that creature — because he’s nocturnal? Stephen laughed. “Oh, Jeff [referring to his bandmate] and Katie [Jeff’s girlfriend] did that — isn’t it amazing? I asked them to draw my spirit animal. A drunk raccoon.”
So there you have it — the wide-eyed raccoon is belly-up, beer can clutched between paws, surrounded by music. (For more of this beautiful fusion of music + art, check out Pyrose Wood Works.)
The Banditos tour tirelessly, so if you missed them on their run with St. Paul & The Broken Bones, worry not — they’ll be back in your neck of the woods. Take a look at their upcoming dates here, and pick up their self-titled album while you’re at it. There’s more cold weather ahead, so you may as well do some drinkin’ and dancin’.