LIVE: Michael Hurley @ the Half Moon, 5/23/14

May 29th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg


Review by Bokonon
Photograph by Ross Marvin

The Sazerac. It may be America’s oldest cocktail. Astringent; sweetly bitter, but not bittersweet; and with the ghost of absinthe floating through its finish.

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They serve a good Sazerac at Hudson’s Half Moon. It’s the right drink for Michael Hurley’s music, bracing, but hazily psychedelic; wooden yet electric.

Hurley was in the house at the Half Moon on Friday, singing to a considerably larger complement than he had in previous Friendly City visits at John Doe Records and the Hudson River Theater. John Doe owner, Dan “Bunnybrains” Seward — effectively Hurley’s Hudson booking agent — was there to let everyone know it, too, barking about the fourteen fans at the original early-aughts tour stop.

Now 72, Hurley plopped himself down in a wooden chair at the Half Moon, following opening sets by Metal Mountains and Tara Jane O’Neil. A few songs in, he was joined by Pittsfield guitarist and songwriter Wes Buckley, who immediately found the curiously funky Hurley pocket and never left it.

Together they moved through a good chunk of Hurley’s more-or-less contemporary catalog, songs less Snocky than, say “Hog of the Forsaken,” but still slippery. “The Revenant” hummed. “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum,” too. There’s a reason Hurley — even if he lacked fiddle or banjo for this show — is a freak-folk saint.

Some in the standing house seemed nonplussed; others shouted requests. There might have been a little bit of Hurley mentoring happening, especially amongst the shushers quieting drinkers at the back.

The faithful were rewarded with every tune, and pleased with the lack of the pandering crowd-pleasers like “National Weed Growers Association,” which used to pad Hurley’s sets. Those who needed something more familiar were rewarded, too. “I Paint a Design,” yelped for more than once, was delivered in delicious, floating fashion with slide from Buckley.

And I’m-not-leaving-the-stage encores of the quintessential “O My Stars” and “Portland Water” (complete with a rambling cruise through the singer’s pilsner opinions) capped the evening nicely.

Then, Sazerac drained, Hurley done, it was time to step back into the cool Brooklyn, er, Hudson night.

Ross Marvin’s review at