I have mixed feelings about the new New City as a venue. It was obviously not initially built as a music venue, so like in any other bar you have to find its sweet spots in order to really be able to appreciate the sound this kind of band has. More specifically I’m talking about the sound of Larry and his Flask. Although people sometimes seem to have a hard time pinpointing their sound to one or even two genres, to me Larry was Bluegrass with a punk background. Yes, they have other influences and sounds that you can pick up on listening to their tracks, but when I was standing in front of them listening and watching them play, that is all I heard and that is all I saw: bluegrass and punk. What a delicious combination.
To emulate the atmosphere of a good ol fashioned shindig, the entire lineup needs to be able to hold their end of the show before the main act steps up. Bands were a pushin’ and a shovin’ to share the stage with Larry and his Flask to do just that. What was initially a three band bill quickly turned in to five. The kind of five band lineup that just makes you want to take those boots off, stomp your feet and holler at random intervals. The Give em’ Hell Boys hit a particular heartstring with their rendition of Chris Issaks “Wicked Game”. The lineup as a whole made me think somewhat of Corb Lund’s “ Family Reunion”, not in blood obviously but definitely in mentality and kinship.
Looking around, the room made me a bit sad. It wasn’t nearly the crowd these bands should attract and I had a number of people tell me that they would have loved to come, but ‘New City on a weeknight…’ the main act would probably only go on after 12am, and some just couldn’t swing it. The possibility of a weekend show wasn’t in the books because, of course, Larry and pretty much everyone else was headed to Sled Island festival in Calgary. So the turnout was very disappointing but under those circumstances you do what you can.
As predicted, a little after 12am Larry and his Flask were up. The energy leading up to that moment was pretty decent considering the turnout. I am a firm believer that any band which includes a banjo or brass should elicit some kind of barn-dance quality. Larry and his Flask didn’t disappoint. Ladies were hooking arms and people were bouncing around. I always find it charming that no matter what kind of music they appreciate, Albertan’s default dance move is to fist pump.
The boys definitely put a lot of thought and care into their performance, which shows from head to toe… literally and figuratively. A pinch or more of Mississippi-esque attire, layer after layer of clothes indicative of their central Oregon background (but those didn’t last long)…Light on…Energy up… Shirts off… It happens. Honestly, who am I to complain? Fantastic musicians, and fantastic performers in general. I loved the subtle yet not so subtle instrumental switch ups between musicians, the noteworthy characteristics of punks trapped in button up vests and ties… a scream here a scream there and the brass…mmm brass.
If ever there was a prerequisite for bluegrass it would be energy. If the band’s not moving and the crowd’s not moving, then there is something seriously wrong. I had little doubt that Larry and his Flask would deliver in that respect. My worry was in regards to what I love most about true bluegrass, and that is the quality of the vocals and harmonies. It’s a pet peeve of mine I must admit, and in my opinion if you can’t harmonize well then you just shouldn’t fucking do it! Especially in bluegrass! Just don’t do it! Harmonization is supposed to bring you back and make you feel at home. It may sounds strange but it’s true. Luckily, I could have listened to those boys harmonize for a good long while.
I really do hate to be completely positive, but really my only complaint was the turnout and I already addressed that but will do so again regardless. Next time, get off your asses and show up to see Larry and his Flask.
And that is all I have to say about that.