Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Spring Standards Do Their Thing

It’s no small thing to play an instrument really well. It’s another thing all together to play three instruments while singing a song that you wrote. Meet The Spring Standards, a band with seven instruments and only three musicians (or maybe you already met them, they used to be called Old Springs Pike. But you should meet them again).

At their CD release party at the Bowery Ballroom on July 31st, the three members of the band gave new meaning to the term “multi-tasking”. Sandwiched between two men (both named James) was Heather Robb with her sweet voice (like a younger, hipper Joni Mitchell), plus her keyboard, harmonica and base drum with cymbals which she beat enthusiastically and with surprising skill. The two James guys (James Cleare and James Smith) share not only the same name, but also the same instruments, switching sides of the stage throughout the set, moving between the acoustic guitar and electric bass. Their stations were also outfitted with segmented drum-sets and a harmonica (for which the crowd went crazy).

The trio had their moments of bright poppy melodies and guitar lines, even approaching a little metal on occasion, but their country roots are undeniable (and happily so). The set was mostly original songs, except for one cover done in tribute to Neil Young and, later, a good old Cranberries song in which the trio invited all of the musicians from the night up to join them in a paramount finale.

James, Heather and James are clearly very talented musicians. But they are also gracious and genuine (Heather commented several times on how happy they were to be back in New York), humble and amiable (James went on a spur-of-the-moment tangent about the movie Anaconda 3 and had to be reeled back in). They play with everything they’ve got, which makes their skills all the more impressive. Any one of them could be pulled out, sat down on their own, and left to give a captivating solo acoustic show. But together, they rock, with layered and seamless harmonies that would make the Beatles proud, and a synchronicity so perfect it’s a wonder that they can breathe without each other.

They came out for an encore (how could they not?) and launched into an upbeat blues song that they seemed born to perform. After the cheers died down, they stepped away from their instruments and announced that the audience would have to be really quiet for the next song. As seems to befit their nature, the trio cut to the chase, jumped off the stage and onto the main floor of the ballroom, where they were quickly encircled by the delighted crowd. With only a ukelele accompanying them, they sang their closing song, like a fond farewell, inviting the remaining diehards in the audience to join in towards the end. Suddenly, the iconic venue felt smaller, the Spring Standards felt like family and the concert became an intimate, unique experience never to be repeated.

And this, the ability to give a performance that is unforgettable, is the most impressive thing of all.
Top photo by Reid Rolls
Live photos by Cassie Newman

3 comments:

Christine E said...

I saw them the next night opening up for the Old 97's. I thought they were pretty awesome.

Speaking of Old 97's, you should come see their lead singer, Rhett Miller play on August 22nd on a boat around Manhattan.

Tamra said...

wow... you really summed the night up quite perfectly!

The Little One said...

james cleare used to play with my brother! small world, eh? in fact, i saw them before you, so really, this blog post should have some sort of mention of me. in fact, ALL your blog posts should. you don't even have to give me a penny for sharing my extremely remarkable thoughts...