Wow, such a lot of talent on one stage.
This thought kept running through my mind as I witnessed the quietly stunning closing show for the inaugural tour of the Trio of Troubadours at SF’s last speakeasy, Boom Boom Room on Fillmore Street. The trio, actually a banging rock-pop quartet, is made up of singer-songwriters Dan Lebowitz, Dave Brogan and Chris Velan, plus bass playing whiz kid Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green). While usually hyperbole, one couldn’t shake comparisons with fighting trim Badfinger or pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles as these boys whipped out one instantly likeable, ably jammed-out ditty after another. Despite most of the material being new to most ears in the room, there was no waiting period on one’s affection for each cut. This music reaches out and pulls one in quickly and surely, an arm that beckons one to sway and dance with them, a smile you simply can’t refuse.
While they played round-robin with selections from the catalogues of the three songwriters, the night felt harmonious, the tunes bouncing nicely off of one another and suggesting this group would be positively lethal if they started composing together. Each has a strong, appealing voice and their harmonies, Mathis included, were dynamite – a natural vibration far from the mechanized cleanliness of today’s radio. What came through very strongly was a shared interest in exploring this music together, each man swinging happily, savoring the freshness and foreigness, grinning with surprise at what the others brought to bear, each songwriter seeing their compositions in a new light. I could see these Troubadours appealing to folks who lose in love with Nickel Creek, Gillian Welch & David Rawling, The New Pornographers, Matthew Sweet, Aimee Mann and more. The range of their charm is wide.
The fact that they sounded so together – jams, solos, everything – after a few days of rehearsal and six tour dates is seriously impressive. Each is a powerhouse musician with wide-open listening habits and the ability to transform that diversity into a very together final product. Combined, these four have a hell of a lot of lift, so to speak. If this quartet really put their minds to it and made this into a real band, The Mother Hips and Surprise Me Mr. Davis would have some healthy competition for the best new era classic rockers going. As it is, the Trio of Troubadours will be a sometimes thing, fit in between ALO gigs for Brogan and Lebo, Velan’s solo career and Mathis’ TLG duties and upcoming Beethoven solo project. But, the musicians clearly felt the spark of something promising as strongly as those in attendance, and it seems like there’s a future for this budding aggregation. Festival promoters would be wise to pursue the Troubadours whenever their schedules allow. This band would be a real ace in the hole for a savvy programmer this coming summer fest season. (Dennis Cook)
Dave Brogan has a fab debut album from 2008 (see review here) and is working on follow-up. Dan Lebowitz is working on his solo debut. And Chris Velan has a crazy good new album called Fables For Fighters available digitally now and coming out in stores April 19 in Canada and in the U.S. on June 7.
Once again, our faithful lensman John Margaretten serves up the scene.