Walter Salas-Humara has been the only constant in the Silos since he launched the band in New York City in 1985 with guitarist Bob Rupe and violinist Mary Rowell. The singer-songwriter bought the rights to the Silos name from Rupe in 1991, and spent much of the last decade as a three-piece with Konrad Meissner on drums and Drew Glackin (who died in 2008) on bass and lap steel guitar.
The current Silos incarnation is typically a five-piece, with Salas-Humara and Meissner joined by Jason Victor on guitar, Bruce Martin on keyboards and Rod Hohl on bass. But the extended Silos family is large, and can include quite a few additional musicians on albums or onstage. It’s a “moveable feast” as the band says, quoting Hemingway — one that adds rich textures to Salas-Humara’s rootsy, well-honed and sometimes stark tales.
At Valentine’s, the Silos — who played there in 2005 on a bill with Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3 — brought their pared down version for a fairly low-key night. From his band, just lead guitarist Victor and keyboardist Martin joined Salas-Humara onstage — Martin doing double duty on drums.
They started with the meditative “Uncomplicated,” a track from Salas-Humara’s genre-bending “I’m Not Jim” musical collaboration with “Fortress of Solitude” author Jonathan Lethem and then brought a “special guest” onstage: singer Abigail Curran from Wilmington, New York (the niece of Salas-Humara’s girlfriend; the young singer only joined the Silos for this one show).
Much of the set drew from the latest Silos release, “Florizona,” the band’s tenth studio album, which is dedicated to former bassist Glackin and likely takes its name from Salas-Humara’s Florida upbringing and more recent move to Arizona. “Election Day” was a pensive but expectant song with political undertones; album single “White Vinyl” was an uplifting classic rocker; and “Teenage Prayer” captured the romance of youthful wanderlust in a song about moving west to California and “selling weed and ‘shrooms and X to pay for gas.”
“This is one of the first songs I ever wrote in college. I think I was drunk for four straight years,” Salas-Humara joked before playing the “Cuba”-era nugget “Going Round” — appropriately enough following the new tune “Getting Trashed.”
Although much of the set had a mellow, intimate vibe, the electricity ramped up toward the end of the night, with the dark and jangly “Coming from the Grave,” Salas-Humara’s solo acoustic take on the plaintive “Susan Across the Ocean,” and the band’s road-weary classic, “Tennessee Fire,” which found Victor, Martin and Salas-Humara finally working off each other to alight a blaze of rock and roll.
Albany Americana band Grainbelt brought the rock for their opening set of “beer-battered twang and roll,” veering from heartfelt, hopeful ballad (“A Little Faith Goes a Long Way”) to revved up rockers (“Bend in the River”).
“This is a song we just recorded for our good friend Charlie Chesterman, who’s sick right now,” frontman Howard Glassman said before the whimsical “My Friend Ringo,” a Young Fresh Fellows-recorded, Chesterman-penned pop tune that Grainbelt recently recorded with producer Don Fury for an upcoming compilation to benefit the Boston musician (of Scruffy the Cat fame).
Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Silos photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Additional Silos photograph by Al Goldberg
Grainbelt photograph by Kirsten Ferguson
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Beginning with the second number, the new song ‘Election Day,’ and continuing for the rest of the main set, Lake Placid native Abigail Curran sang harmonies. It was an interesting choice — her vocals, while pleasant, came nowhere close to the level of character Salas-Humara mustered up with his throaty growl, and she remained buried in the mix for the first half of the set. But, eventually, the two took off together — mid-set slow burner ‘Only Story I Tell’ gave them a chance to croon away on a love song, and Curran’s voice finally matched Salas-Humara’s intensity on ‘Going Round,’ which followed immediately after. Silos classics like ‘Innocent’ and ‘First Move’ raged with appropriate barn-burning licks and thunderous drumming — Martin in particular took the VIP award for his instrumental gymnastics throughout the evening. The snarling ‘I’m Over You’ was another highlight, with Victor’s solo really pushing the tune into the stratosphere.”
THE SILOS SET LIST
Only Story I Tell
The Only Love
Coming from the Grave
I’m Over You
Sweet Black Angel
You Look Like Sheila
Holding on to Life
Susan Across the Ocean