16 July 2010

Streams of Whiskey Live

Now this I have sat on for too long…

3 July 2010, I headed out to Paddy Reilly’s on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 29th Street in Manhattan (519 2nd Avenue) for a show. On the invitation of a friend, co-worker, and one of the keepers of my sanity, it was set to be an evening of Celtic Punk and Irish Rock. The day started hectically, the afternoon was no better, and the evening even worse, so by ten at night, I was speeding… and I do mean speeding… to get to the gig on time… and it was most definitely worth it. Streams of Whiskey offered up two amazing sets.

So I finally got there and within moments I was with Black Stuff in one hand and my Blackberry in the other (hey… I have to take notes somehow). I was a bit disappointed by the turn out; I guess many of the townies were away for the holiday weekend – this is a cover band that you really should check out.

The problem with most cover bands – whether they are purists or not – is that it is all rote motion. And when the band concentrates on just one artist, it becomes more that rote; it becomes scary imitation without soul. But that is not the case with Streams of Whisky. You never got the feeling that you were listening to The Pogues or any other band – actually, they owned their renditions of the songs, which is very rare for a cover band. For instance, when they performed “Greenland Whale Fisheries,” one of my favorite sea shanties, I never thought of any of the other versions I knew of the song… not the Weavers… not the Pogue’s… not the Dubliners.

Sharing members with Barnacle Bill, Streams of Whiskey is an octet – on stage: Tim Alworth on drums, Karen Kelly on tin whistle, Stuart Klinger on banjo, guitar, and vocals, Sebastian McLaughlin on mandolin and banjo, Yianni Naslas on bass, Daniel Sutton on accordion, Steve Wickins on vocals, bodhrán and swanee whistle, and Jeff “Polly” Young on fiddle. Cover band or not, the more members on the stage (and the less technology), the harder it is to remain tight. These eight were tight; not the tight of rote playing, but the tightness that comes from knowing the songs, knowing each others’ playing style, and being able to viscerally emote in the same manner. Four songs into the first set, “Rising Moon,” this was more than obvious. This octet was in sync with one another.

Let me admit something, I have never been a fan of “If I Should Fall from Grace with God,” but even their rendition of this song had me bobbing my head. Three other great moments included “Whiskey You’re the Devil” – many a drunk night I sung this one loudly for my neighbors! But this rendition on stage sounded more urgent than any other version I have heard of this song. “Dirty Old Town” was “fuller” than I ever heard before – Wickins’ voice just lends itself to really emote in this song. And then there was “Turkish Song of the Damned.” Young’s fiddle was put to the test on this one and surpassed expectations. The entire vibe of this song was amazing; the rendition was definitely slightly darker than the original, but that just brought out the power of the lyrics even more: “The spectre on my back will soon be free, the dead have come to claim a debt from thee.”

Final verdict: great cover band, and you should head over to their MySpace and Facebook, sign up, and keep up with them. I believe they will be on “holiday” till September… but hopefully, if you are in the NYC area and free when they play, you’ll come by for some Black Stuff and good music.

Set List:
1. Misty Morning Albert Bridge
2. Spanish Lady
3. Nancy Whiskey
4. Rising of the Moon
5. Whiskey You’re the Devil
6. Streams of Whiskey
7. Old Main Drag
8. Broad Majestic Shannon
9. If I Should Fall from Grace with God
10. Sally MacLennane
11. Poor Paddy

12. A Pair of Brown Eyes
13. Greenland Whale Fisheries
14. Sayonara
15. Kitty
16. Dirty Old Town
17. Bottle of Smoke
18. Boys from the Country Hell
19. White City
20. Sickbed
21. Turkish Song of the Damned
22. Fiesta

Keep up with Streams of Whiskey at their MySpace and Facebook.

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