37 years ago The Feelies released their debut album Crazy Rhythms. 37 years later they still perform the last two tracks, “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms,” with more infectious energy than the original recordings themselves. And they performed thirty-plus songs during their two stunning sets on May 12 at Rough Trade NYC in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in much the same manner, with a simultaneous precision and abandon that’s been a Feelies hallmark for decades and across six albums.
The Feelies are, and have been since 1985 or so, Glenn Mercer (guitar and lead vocals), Bill Million (guitar and backing vocals), Stanley Demeski (drums), Brenda Sauter (bass and backing vocals) and Dave Weckerman (percussion, backing vocals and assorted other musical toys). Lou Reed was a major influence; the band in turn has influenced many acts including R.E.M. (and The Feelies have opened for both). Tonight, though, the stage is all theirs as the band tears through stuff from their latest, In Between (including the Wire-esque noisefest “Been Replaced”), 2011’s Here Before (featuring the sublime backing vocals of “Should Be Gone”), 1986’s The Good Earth (pounding out the semi-hit “The High Road” like they own the place – ok, tonight they do), and…closing set number one, “Original Love” from Crazy Rhythms. Between songs the audience cries, “We love The Feelies!” And The Feelies love them back.
Visually the band is no GQ cover – three of the five, including leaders Mercer and Million, sport glasses and all five don the kind of outfit that would, well, certainly not turn heads on the streets of Williamsburg. Mercer and Million stare seriously into the space around their guitars, Sauter picks bass lines with cool intensity, Demeski holds down the impossibly rigorous rhythm with an easy-going expression that belies the fact that he’s drumming at, like, 150 beats per minute, and Weckerman – hunched and hidden behind Mercer – looks as if he’s about to explode at anybody who dares to interrupt his maraca-shaking.
After a brief break, The Feelies return for set number two, kicking off with “On and On” from Here Before, more from the new one, a handful from 1988’s Only Life, the amazing “Slipping (Into Something)” from The Good Earth, a couple from 1991’s Time For a Witness, and finally the one-two punch of “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms.” An encore featuring first-ever single “Fa Cé-La” (also on Crazy Rhythms), then… Reports from other recent shows indicate more encores with fun cover tunes like the Stones’ “Paint It Black,” the Modern Lovers’ “Astral Plane,” Lou Reed’s “Can’t Stand It,” even “King’s Lead Hat” from Brian Eno’s Before and After Science! Unfortunately I’m out the door to beat the crowd as usual, so…missed those.
Hopefully The Feelies will be around for many more years of wild precision and careful abandon!
album cover images courtesy allmusic.com, amazon.com, bar-none.com, popdose.com
“Been Replaced” video courtesy YouTube/Keboy; “Should Be Gone” video from Jacob Burns Film Center courtesy YouTube/monty4921; 2012 Bell House videos courtesy YouTube/UnsteadyFreddie; 2013 Hoboken Art & Music Festival videos courtesy YouTube/Mickster6988240
band photos by me! (for a change)