The Felice Brothers

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The Felice Brothers


Wed, January 15, 2014

7:00 pm

Chameleon Club


This event is 18 and over

The Felice Brothers
The Felice Brothers
“…what separates The Felices’ mud-stomping folk from that of their peers is their no-winking honesty – the sense that these songs and the places and people they’re singing about aren’t literary devices but actual people doing their damnedest to rage against the growing darkness.” – Filter Good Music Guide, 2009
Here’s what’s already known about The Felice Brothers: they are a close-knit band of two brothers and three longtime friends, all in their twenties. They are self-taught, not one of them played an instrument prior to the band’s inception in 2006 when they started busking in New York City subway stations. The Felice Brothers have released three full-length albums; their last, Yonder Is The Clock, on Team Love Records (2009). The majority of their work was recorded in a converted chicken coop in upstate New York near their hometown of Palenville. Esquire, Filter, The New York Times, NPR, Spin, Time Out New York, Uncut, and Under The Radar have praised them, among others. They are on virtually constant tour in the States and overseas, and have performed at festivals including Bonnaroo, All Points West, Outside Lands, Langerado, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Recognized for their live show, The Felice Brothers will play for their audience come hell or high water; the foremost example is their transcendent performance at the 2008 Newport Folk Festival, where they soldiered on, unplugged, in the rain, and barefoot in the mud after a lightning bolt shorted their stage’s power supply.
Here’s what might come as a surprise about The Felice Brothers: their new and fourth LP Celebration, Florida is an exhilarating amalgamation of frightening horn sections, unexpected 808s, ambient synth lines, schoolyard taunts, booming, primitive drum beats, heavy bass lines, piano, violin, accordion, ringing guitars, rave beats, and sinister acid jazz that captivates and mystifies. Recorded in the gymnasium and theater of Beacon, NY’s old high school, the band explores a multitude of sounds and instrumentation throughout the expansive album. It’s inspired, imaginative, heady, menacing, passionate, and rollicking. Most importantly, it’s as steadfastly authentic as ever, expanding upon the dark, woozy undercurrent of ramshackle barroom blues, vaudevillian atmospherics, and surreal storytelling of their previous albums. Under The Radar wrote in a review of Yonder Is The Clock that The Felice Brothers find “inspiration and freedom rather than constraints in the traditions of folk music.” Celebration, Florida revels in this inventive, outlaw spirit; it’s the sound of a band that knows its roots and knows where it’s growing. It’s a group who just might expand the definition of Americana music along the way.
Celebration, Florida casts scenes of dreamy characters and stories interwoven like a block of primetime TV. Among the tales: a young woman who sets off to find a secret paradise; a teenager who enters a boxing gym in Catskill, NY; a late night host recounting his rise to fame to his honeybee while traveling in a private jet; shady degenerates who get lost in a mystery concerning a Honda Civic; a young girl who crimps her hair and spies her dead father driving down the road; a Wall Street scandal hits a little too close to home; and even a trip through space to find long forgotten Hollywood parties and hopefully make it back there in time to walk down the red carpet.
The Felice Brothers are: Ian Felice, James Felice, Christmas, Greg Farley, and David Turbeville.
Lancaster, PA, is a town where farmers share roadways with punk rockers; where a new convention center juts from a landscape of cornfields; where the nation’s oldest farmers market, an opera house, and a rock club frequented by rock and roll heavyweights all lie within a two-block radius. It’s also where the members of Slimfit forged lifelong friendships and learned to love the dichotomy of their hometown that now infuses their music.

On paper, Slimfit would seem to live in two worlds, divided between the modern and the nostalgic. But on tape, their music flows as smoothly as the sweet Susquehanna River that meanders through the lyrics of so many of their songs.

On one hand, the members of Slimfit pledge their allegiance to all things dusty, rusty and unadorned—an aesthetic that shows their affinity for the music of Tom Petty, Gram Parsons and Steve Earle, whose lonely narratives, indelible melodies and unembellished meat-and-potatoes rock songs echo throughout Slimfit’s catalog. What it doesn’t account for is their love for iPhone apps and old Bad Religion albums. Twitter updates and microbrews. Dinosaur Jr guitar heroics and Aziz Ansari stand-up bits. These are the elements that keep Slimfit’s music engaging even for music lovers who normally don’t get within 100 feet of anything twangy. And never have they been on fuller display than on the band’s latest album, The Path, the follow-up to 2008’s acclaimed Make It Worse.

In between pastoral ballads and country romps, the band immerses itself in the rock side of alt-country, meandering its way through arena-worthy chorus hooks, ebullient E Street guitar leads, four-part vocal arrangements and some straight-up, blistering, raw Crazy Horse riffage – and that’s all on the first track.

“The Path certainly captures more of our rock and roll leanings and less of our country ones,” admits guitarist Patrick Kirchner. “Even with the edgier sound, though, I think the same musical undercurrent runs through the songs. Call it earth or dirt or twang or whatever. It’s just honest songwriting. And it’s always been at the heart of Slimfit.”

Lyrically, frontman Joey McMonagle sorts through the remnants and keepsakes of relationships, be they with friends, lovers, God or his own ideologies. “Pretty much all the songs stack up to address the path of the human condition,” Kirchner notes, “all the struggles and fears and hopes and unknowns that lie in trying to traverse the right path or avoid the wrong one.”

The Path comes on the heels of Slimfit’s debut album, Make It Worse, which drew praise from across the musical spectrum, from tastemaking rock stations like WXPN (“Slimfit has created a great new sound”) to pop culture hubs like Pop Matters (“All the best elements of that thing called alt-country, wrapped up in one gorgeously orchestrated, irresistibly catchy tune”), from American press to an alarming amount of overseas outlets, thanks in particular to the ever effusive Dutch. Ze houden Slimfit!

But critical praise was never really the goal here. For these longtime blood brothers, the process of writing, recording and performing music just rolls out of their friendship. It’s a way of figuring out their place in life, as rock and roll lifers in a small Pennsylvania town; as beer-swilling boys with real jobs, wives and children; as grown-ass men apt to cut it loose as if they were half their ages—as most of them were when they first met. They’re going to figure it out together, and damned if they’re not going to have fun doing it.

“The way we write songs and the way we interact is a testament to our friendship,” McMonagle says. “I can’t imagine being in a band where we’re not all best friends."

That’s one Path truly worth following.

- Jeff Royer
Venue Information:
Chameleon Club
223 North Water Street
Lancaster, PA, 17603