Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson
Hand Habits photographs by Timothy Reidy
Figgs bassist Pete Donnelly returned to Valentine’s last Friday with a new combo from Philly, the Wise Easy, featuring Jim Balga on drums and Phil D’Agostino on bass. Fresh off an appearance at Saratoga’s Spring Street Gallery the night before, Donnelly had a batch of new tunes from his upcoming album, Face the Bird, to showcase.
The soon-to-be-released album was (mostly) recorded in October in an unused storefront in Ocean City, New Jersey, during the off-season and just before Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey shore. It has an experimental and widely divergent stylistic feel. “Delicate Elocution,” about the tactful art of navigating a friend’s domestic violence situation, was a somberish ballad, while “Got Caught Up” – which features singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne on the album – was a shame-free pop tune with an irresistible chorus.
Donnelly didn’t fail to pull out a few Figgs tunes – notably the rockers “Kill Me Now” and “The Trench” and one of his best ballads, “I Won’t Go to Miami” – while the funkified “Can’t Talk at All” and the fan-requested “Saratoga” from Donnelly’s solo album of last year, When You Come Home, were also highlights.
Local songwriter Meg Duffy’s group Hand Habits opened the night, which also featured a guest turn during Donnelly’s set by Chandler Travis Philharmonic singer Fred Jodsworth Boak, who came onstage to sing along to “Original Wonder” after winning his ticket to the show through a Nippertown giveaway. And Donnelly’s brother Phil Donnelly – drummer in the local psychedelic improvisational group Burnt Hills – hopped onstage to help end the show on a punk note with a rip through the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.”