TVD Live: The Feelies at the 9:30 Club, 3/27

It’s good to have The Feelies back, touring somewhat regularly for the past couple of years.  I’m happy to ride the wave of momentum they have built recently, playing shows rumored to include multiple sets and epic encores.  Wednesday’s 9:30 Club performance was no exception.  Feelies fans were rewarded with excellent beer and music in exchange for making their way over the mid-week hump to catch the show.

Once dubbed “The Best Underground Band in NY” by the Village Voice, The Feelies have had multiple self-imposed setbacks that might have contributed to them flying a bit under the musical radar. As The Feelies gained momentum in the early ’80s with their brilliant and unconventional release Crazy Rhythms, followed by the The Good Earth, touring frustrations arose and the band disappeared for five years. They released a couple more albums, dealt with a shitty manager, shared a cross-country tour with Lou Reed, and then founding member Bill Million lost interest in music, and the band split up… for 17 years.

Thankfully, Dogfish Head Brewery have good taste and curated an event with great beer and even better music. I’m sure snagging The Feelies for an event is no easy feat.  I’ll say this: it was weird to see a beer logo projected onto the wall while a still relatively underground indie band played, which just drove home the whole college rock thing often associated with the band.

A few songs into their set, The Feelies had already covered two Velvet Underground tracks, starting with “Who Loves the Sun,” and then letting into “There She Goes Again.” As soon as I started jotting down notes, I commented on singer Glenn Mercer’s Lou Reed sunglasses, which he ended up wearing the entire set (as if the Feelies needed any sort of prop to capture their inherent cool). Bassist Brenda Sauter joined Mercer in looking naturally “Lou Reed” cool, but with more of a “coolest girl in your high school” ’90s-kinda-way.  Her hair was pulled back in a side barrette with a vintage argyle shirt and skirt combo with chunky sneakers. Her mint bass complimented her whole mystique.

Two drummers oscillated in spastic duality throughout the show, one with a full kit and the other a sort of lower half-kit.  The low drummer had all the fun parts, playing tambourine, castanets, and rain stick! He had a serious selection of rhythmic devices.

The Feelies played two sets and three encore sets. The first set was full of newer songs from albums I’m least familiar with, like “Time for a Witness” off the same S/T LP, songs from their latest Here Before, and the recent, Only Life. Because of this, the first set had more of a college vibe, but after a 20-minute break, the second set and encores had more of that classic, post-punk thing.

As their second set began, I had moved to the back where the most awkward dancing was happening.  I felt like my mom was embarrassing me in front of my peers, but it was the kind of dancing that freedom is made of, and now I’m singing Lou Reed’s “I’m So Free” in my head as I type this… wow, was she free.  It was the kind of unabashed dancing that makes you grin in spite of yourself, and man, how could I not as she’s dancing like a fish on a hook during “Forces are at Work.”

Among the three encore sets were covers of  The Rolling Stones’ “Get Off of my Cloud” and “See No Evil” by Television.  The Television and Velvet Underground covers really drove home the influence that these artists have had on the band. Songs from all five of their records made the set, including “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms” back-to-back, which is how Crazy Rhythms ends. They also played “Fa Ce-La,” which was appropriately short and spastic.

The crowd was relatively thin the whole night, part of it broken up by VIP Craft Beer Convention-goers having the upstairs to themselves.  The crowd thinned out during the last encore, but the diehards who stuck it through were vocal about wanting more.  How could you not want more? The Feelies played a fantastically polished set, and it saddens me that the room wasn’t jammed as tight as it should have been.  Those who attended were not only drunk on good beer, but left tipsy and happy from the music.

Photos: Richie Downs

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