TVD Live: Jesse Sykes
& The Sweet Hereafter and The Sadies at
IOTA, 11/17

After struggling through soundcheck Jesse Sykes apologized to the early arrivals at IOTA, calling the soundcheck “demoralizing,” and allowing her drummer a chance to check his mics and exit.

Moments later, Jesse Sykes (Lead Vocals and Guitar), Phil Wandscher (Guitar), Bill Herzog (Bass), Eric Eagle (Drums) stepped on stage and into an entirely musical introduction, 100 percent psychedelic rock/folk, stoner, garage, heavy guitar, blissful. After they grew better acquainted with the stage Wandscher asked, ” Can we dim those lights, I feel like I’m tripping acid?” The lights dimmed, and we hear “Come to Mary” from their fourth LP Marble Son, released August 2nd, and in this recent release, JS&SH dove deep into the dark psychedelic and side-stepped much of the alternative country overtones.

When Sykes let’s loose I’m taken back to the ’60s, I close my eyes, and I hear Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane (who, being called “The Acid Queen” long ago, only adds punch to Wandscher’s comments). Jesse’s voice may often dip into eerie, but in songs like “Ceilings High” paired with the “jam band”-style guitar and slide, it works, feeling more like a playful Phish song than one from the late ’60s. But heading back to their sweet spot in “Hushed by Devotion”and out of the lighter ballads, I think Sykes really shines.

Jesse Sykes and The Sweet hereafter close the set with “Wooden Roses,” “Take care of me/ Behind a doorway of wooden roses/ Where nobody goes/ Fell into the sea/ Suspended broken hearted/ I long for the shore/ Where love, it is a song and nothing more.” Although the lyrics urge deep emotions, Sykes’ intense voice wavers and shakes, displaying a vulnerability that can be interpreted as disarming or unpolished. I much preferred Wandscher’s far-reaching and completely over-the-top solos to Sykes’ often shrill moody ballads. (Leave the moody, thoughtful, depressing ballads to the late Sandy Denny.)

“Last time we were here, there were no people [five years ago]. I like the contrast,” says Sykes. As she restarted the final song due to recurring sound sensitivity—“I have to start over. Everything’s changing, it’s probably neurological”—I wished simply that they’d ended on a higher note.

With a brief intermission, on came The Sadies, with whom, prior to this evening, I had no live experience. The Sadies are a fantastic rockabilly psychadelic rock band from Toronto, ON consisting of two descendants of The Good Brothers: Dallas Good (Vocals and Guitar) and Travis Good (Vocals, Guitar, and Violin), with Sean Dean (Bass), and Mike Belitsky (Drums and Vocals). They play tight quick Western-style country with surfer guitar, upright bass, and fiddle.

The Good “pillars” could be imposing on stage (standing at about nine feet tall) if they weren’t smiling, boisterous, and upbeat. When you first see Travis, you will immediately think of Neil Young: wild hair, black Western shirt with white embroidery, his jerky motions endearing you to his frantic style—but as he sings you’ll picture Jerry Lee Lewis, red-faced and wired. In contrast, Dallas’ deep soothing vocals have a dark, often humorous allure.

“Another Day Again” from their 2010 release Darker Circles owns classic rock, but with the tide-like rhythms of psychedelic. On top of obvious musical talent and endless complicated guitar question and answer sessions between the two brothers, their song choices (quite a few covers), and original lyrics stand out. Their respect for ’60s folk, rock, and country fit the venue and the mood of the IOTA crowd Thursday. They took a moment to thank and mock Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter, “this one’s dedicated to the little bastards that we’ve grown fond of for the last twenty shows, they were endless comic relief, especially when they fight.” Dallas delivered this line with a sly smile as he begins “Tell Her What I Said,” a sorrowful admission that he’s made mistakes, self-medicates, and will most likely continue to do so.

The Sadies play in the same comfortable genre but maintain interest with guitar picking while mixing covers with originals, transitioning with rapid instrumental flashes. Entertaining as any band I’ve seen, The Sadies have gone on my playlist and will be there until further notice.

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