I walked through a short, speakeasy-type tunnel that opened into a relatively small room. The two ticket takers manning the table were welcoming and quick of wit. Light bulbs encased in mason jars dangled from overhead. There were no tables and only a handful of stools by the bar.
Wicked. Pints are only $5.50. Welcome to the showroom of Casa Del Popolo.
First up was Pat Bennett alone on a keyboard, performing songs under the guise of Old Boy. It was a quick, five-song set, featuring songs he’d written as a memorial for his friend Nick Babeu. I loved the way his low vocal melodies carried throughout the room, often matched by the notes plucked out with his right hand. They were harrowing. They were haunting. He was Danny Elfman as Jack Skellington. Everyone in the crowd listened with respectful silence; he was grateful, and said as much. I was very impressed with an unreleased track he played called “Momento.” His last song was an homage. “If you take all the guitars out of Thin Lizzy, they’re still the best band in the world,” he said, before launching into a stripped-down version of “Little Girl in Blue.”
I made my way to the front of the room while the next band, the Maybe Greys, were setting up. While I was one of only five people in the bar earlier in the night, I took the opportunity to speak with drummer Scotty Potter. He told me that they’d been together as a band for the better part of a year, and had recorded their album at Mayk Music in St. Sauveur. While I can’t claim to have fallen in love with their album, their live show left me astounded. The shift in sound between when they recorded and now might’ve been subtle, but I think they nailed their sound. It was Tom Petty-esque, with country and funk mingled in a la Cake by the crispy, twangy solos of lead guitarist Kevin Moquin. Their sixth song “Shaky Ground” showcased the slinky styling of Bud Rice on bass. Put him on some stairs and he’ll provide hours of entertainment, no? John Hale is the primary songwriter and front man. He carries both responsibilities well, and he energized the crowd throughout their set. My two favorite parts of their set were as follows: Scott, originally a guitarist, showed great chops on the drums, especially on the high-hat. He kept that thing on a leash the whole night. The other highlight was their vocal harmonies, which were just as stellar live as they were on the record. If John is Sir Savien, then he’s found his Aloine in Sanja.
Less than ten minutes later, Po Lazarus kicked off their set. I love quick band changeovers. They started with “I’ve Been Sitting Here,” a soft, acoustic guitar warm-up while singer Josh Carey launched into his heartfelt opening sans microphone. I got goosebumps that blossomed and popped when he nailed his first falsetto. His voice was all class and ground glass. He danced; he swung into the crowd to get us dancing; he threw his voice. He gave zero fucks, and was the epitome of showmanship – not that he was the only showman in the band. Each member accentuated the highs and diminutive lows of the songs with their bodies. They might not have been technically astounding, but they oozed soul. Their sixth song, “Do You Think Of Me?” was a ballad. Everyone loves slow jams. It was great for making out with someone in a dark corner of the tiny, packed room. I was impressed with Aaron Cohenca’s use of his electric guitar in the song; it was present in the quietest way possible during the verse, while chords got hammered during the chorus.
After the ballad, the pace picked up again with Josh strutting around the stage. How he was able to keep his jacket on while performing, I’ll never know. It’s all about the look. Speaking of which, they were all rocking classic seventies attire. Very fitting for their sound; from the long, flowing scarves to Luc’s shirt that I’d only rock if I was to ever go bowling again. After all was done, Po Lazarus had treated us to pitch-perfect whistle solos, song sharing with Pat, and even a jam-out to finish their encore. It culminated with Josh and Aaron walking off the stage, leaving us with the resounding rhythm section to carry us away. It was mentioned that they’ll be putting out a new record in May. I think I’m going to buy my ticket tomorrow.
Written by Aaron Deck
*edited by Kate Erickson