Monday, March 15, 2010

Concert Review (and Interview!): Blood Feathers at the Black Cat

Blood Feathers @ The Black Cat
Washington, DC
March 4, 2010

I caught Blood Feathers on the final night of their two-day tour through the East Coast, fresh off of their premiere show the night before in Philadelphia. The band played at the Black Cat with Tough Shits and Seas, to a crowd of Blood Feathers enthusiasts—lead singer Ben Dickey’s mother, as well as other family and friends were prominent among the crowd on Thursday night. I chatted with the band backstage before their set about their newest album, band dynamics, first experiences with Urban Outifitters’ shameless self-promotion, and some special advice for Georgetown students, among other things.
(find out after the jump!)

Blood Feathers seems proud of their newest album, Goodness Gracious. “It’s good, it’s real good,” they assured me. The band members, crowding around one X-marked college student and her tiny microphone in a dingy and absurdly cold Black Cat backstage dressing room, have the humorously self-aware tone of an older, if not wiser then more experienced band. They do not seem bitter or cynical about their status as small, underrated cogs in a vast music industry that rarely lets much talent crank its way to the top. Each member has a "real" life, a full-time job—saxophonist and instrument player of all trades Tracy Stanton is a Philly bar-owner, lead singer and guitarist Ben Dickey is a chef, other lead and guitarist Drew Mills is a furniture restorer, bassist Sam Murphy is a furniture “mover,” Mickey Walker is a 3D problem solver and drummer Patrick Marsceill is a website designer, respectively. As Mills so succinctly put it,  “In this day and age, we’re not young’uns that live with their mothers anymore, so we can’t hit the road all the time anymore…it’s gotta be the right situation.”
Blood Feathers do not have the juvenile sense of desperation a fresh-faced band often portrays; this isn’t a be-all end-all, life on the line, guts-in-the-music-or-die kind of thing to them. Their attitude seems to be that they are here to make music and to play said music—and if you like it, then great, because they certainly do. Everything is slightly tongue-in-cheek and good-humored: As Dickey approached me for the first time, hand outstretched, he chuckled: “so this is it, huh, you’re going to make our big break!”
Goodness Gracious, out December 2009, was made on an island in Nova Scotia; the band “teeter tottered with for about a month, mixed it for a long time, watched it hang around…it’s a long process.” A long process that paid off, as the first record as a band of six as opposed to two (previously just Dickey and Mills) has garnered a well-deserved fair share of acclaim—including a track (“Don’t Know You At All,” grab it below!) on the latest Urban Outfitter’s playlist. Though they were honored to be included in another Philadelphia institution’s work, they were unsure that it did Blood Feathers much good beyond name recognition.  Reviews were mixed, from "it’s a bit of a whisper," to “we’re whores” to “it helps them more than it helps us.”
(I pause for a moment to convey two messages to Georgetown students, courtesy of Blood Feathers: 1) A statue of Patrick Ewing is long overdue, 2) Walt Whitman said 180 years ago that the capital city is build on a lake of fire, and in 2000 this was made evident when massive methane explosions were blowing manhole covers all over the city sky-high. I remain unsure what exactly Georgetown is supposed to do with this information—other than, on the band’s suggestion, replacing Jack with the far more intimidating mascot of a sewer monster. Hoya Sewage?)
            When the band took to the stage later in the evening, they did not even have to cajole the crowd into applause by knocking them off their feet with some fantastic opening song (which may have happened anyway). No, the cheers, calls, and whistles had started before the band even took to the stage—Dickey’s mother, if I correctly identified her by features strikingly resembling her son’s, was beaming from ear to ear. This is not saying that the unabashed adoration from the crowd was unwarranted, just unprecedented for an opening band at Black Cat’s backstage on a Thursday night.  Blood Feathers played a solid showcase of their new album—a highlight was when Dickey announced there was to be a dancing song—“and you kno-ow-ow what that means! Maracas!” And the maracas materialized, and the crowd (again) went wild. Musically, Dickey and Mills are at the forefront, as the two song-writers and general dirigants of the band (“they sing like larks, absolutely beautiful” –Stanton), though the other members pull their weight equally as much, writing in their own parts once the two leads have written a song. The band sounds best—and looks like they are having the time of their lives—when they can all simultaneously let loose on their instruments, riding one cohesive wave of sound that fills the tiny stage with a raucous, warm sound you can’t help but dance to.
I concluded my interview with the question: “What kind of a sandwich would Blood Feathers be?” If you haven’t believed anything else I say, believe me when I say this: their music is like their sandwich. It’s nothing you haven’t tasted before, in individual servings, but smashed together it’s a sandwich based on classic rock’n roll with whole-new kick and twist. Chef Dickey himself crafted our final answer (his bandmates descended into helpless laughter as the answer progressed): Blood Feathers, sandwich style? “Yeah, it’s on a round roll, it’s got an olive spread—you know, a tapenade, on the bottom of the bread. It’s got six fried oysters, deep-fried oysters, on top of that there is a Georgia peachy chutney, some peaches, some apples, some currants, Patrick’s from Morocco so we’ll put a little bit of date in there, that’s next, on top of that shredded romaine, really fine, on top of that is rumelat glaze, you know, some relish, mustard, salt, pepper, a lot of lemon juice, on top of that is a lot of baloney (six pieces, one for each of us), that’s grilled on a flat top, you know, just for a little bit. On the top is a hand-made honey mustard Dijon, pickled green tomatoes, some very thin sliced, we’ll call it jewish-style brisket, in a culinary way, so that is all on top of each other, smashed down with the top piece of bread. Then you’re gonna pull the top piece of bread back up, and you put sun-dried tomatoes, minnows, what do you call them, sardines, toothpicks, cut it into wedges, and everyone can have some.” Everyone can have some. So maybe you haven’t had oysters, chutney, brisket, and sun-dried tomatoes in the same bite before?…have some, just trust me. You yourself can answer Stanton’s question about Georgetown students—“so the kids aren’t afraid of straight up rock and roll like we play?” I certainly hope not!
Grab the Blood Feathers track "Don't Know You At All" fo' free here:

-- Fiona Hanly
Host, "Sweet N Flo," Mondays 12-1 pm on WGTB

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wish I could've been the other proud mother in the audience that night! "Father Time" take 2,3,4,how many more? Love you all!