What do you when you’re a band on the road rolling into a new town, and the members of the band nearly outnumber the members of the audience? It happens all of the time, of course. It’s just that nobody likes to talk about it.
Off on a tangent –
I remember being as sad and embarrassed as hell when I went to Valentine’s to see Jeff Buckley’s Nippertown debut back in June, 1994. There were no more than two dozen people in the audience. Despite the lack of an audience, Buckley and his band delivered a totally mesmerizing performance.
Chatting with him at the downstairs bar afterward, I apologized for the lack of a crowd. He signed a photo for me that’s still hanging on my home office wall, inscribed, “Thank you for the write-up, Greg. The crowd is just right. No foolin’. Sincerely, Jeff Buckley.”
Back to the story at hand –
Northampton’s Winterpills approached a similar-sized crowd at Valentine’s on Thursday with a similar attitude, despite the fact that they’d played the Palace Theatre as the opening act for Cake just a few months earlier. They delivered a marvelous performance at Valentine’s, even after attendance dropped into the single digits and stayed there.
Winterpills were undaunted. Part marvelous Americana folk quintet, part swirling dream-pop band, part flat-out rockers, they charged ahead with a deliciously well-rounded 70-minute show that ranged from finger-picking folk ballads (Flora Reed’s exquisite delivery of “Burning Hearts”) to pure-pop delight (the almost Association-esque vocal fuguing of “Cranky”) to the full bore rockin’ of “Threshing Machine.”
But in order to amuse themselves, the band was working with a secret game plan, which vocalist-guitarist Philip Price revealed before their third song. “We’ve decided to change our setlist tonight and play all of our songs alphabetically,’ he said. “We’ve finished the A’s and we’re venturing into the B’s.”
No joke. Winterpills paraded through the alphabet song-by-song.
Here’s the setlist:
And Then (Miracle Legion cover)
Want the Want
We’ll Bring You Down
You Don’t Love Me Yet
Matthew Loiacono joined in on backing vocals for “Beesting,” as well as the rest of the show.
Matthew also served up a tantalizing nine-song solo set, his first public performance utilizing a sampler. He had a solid grip on his new technology, though. From the opening volley of “I Would Keep You” (from his new album of musical miniatures, “Penny Riddle”) through to his closer, “Only Memory” (from his previous album, “Kentucky”), he showcased a broad range of dynamics, building elements of funk, prog-rock and unadorned feedback into his mandolin workouts.