Music — April 13, 2014 13:25 — 0 Comments

Kris Orlowski And Friends At The Showbox

St Paul de Vence arrived on paired harmonies of trumpet and trombone, instantly transforming the Showbox into the city’s biggest mood-lit living room. 

St Paul is a great band. Friendly and engaging from stage, the lyrics seem to hold the full story of a relationship. At times gentle and sweet, the sweet nothings whispered in a lover’s ear, sung in heart-wrenchingly tender harmonies and lines.  Other songs hold the tension and eggshells of a fight not had, the conversation’s opportunity long past.  Regardless, the vocal chemistry between Benjamin Doerr and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Lydia Ramsey is uncanny.

Add their lyrical enlightenment to the fact that there’s enough talent on stage for two bands, and it’s easy to see why Campfire OK’s own Mychal Cohen saw fit to release St. Paul’s record himself.  The instrumentation is subtle but persistent, pulling of the difficult trick of maintaining energy when the tempo drops with practiced ease. St. Paul de Vence are lock tight, exciting, inspiring performers and most crucially, humble, and are the newest addition to Andrews’ Ever-Growing List Of Bands That One Should Not Miss.

I certainly don’t need to tell anyone that Mychal Cohen is a singular talent.  Nor am I the first one to discover that Campfire OK is an incredible band, both recorded and live. I do think that I can answer the question of whether they can still throw down. I shall answer by simply, humbly, suggesting that they should change name to Bonfire FuckYeah! Jokes aside, these guys are the real deal.  I’m always impressed by their precision, but it’s become another animal.

The intricacy and care I first noticed in a long-past studio session is still there, reflected in all parts, so natural and ingrained that it seems inevitable. Though they lost their fifth and newest member, pianist and background singer Zarni De Wet, to a previous engagement for this show, I relished the opportunity to see the four Campfire vets as a straight-ahead four-piece.  Missing the levity and brightness left by Zarni’s absence, the darkness that generally flirts just under the surface came front and center, showcasing Cohen’s gifts as a songwriter and lyricist.

In four-piece mode, Campfire is all feedback and driving motion, stuck to a driving beat and arranged gorgeously, the “all skills no frills” approach that I love.  It makes for an interesting contrast to Cohen’s drawing vocal style, mesmerizing and full of shoegazey grooves and ripping guitars.  Ending their set with a thunderous instrumental adventure of a song, Campfire Ok (name change pending) proved themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

In anticipation of seeing this show, I made a point to avoid listening to the new Kris Orlowski album.  I regret this, as it cost me several weeks of listening to a songwriter in his prime.  That being said, I was impressed with Kris Orlowski’s new set.

It was much edgier than I expected, having long listened to (and loved) the previous EPs. This was a clear departure from those, less measured, less coffee shops and park days and more grown up, reflecting a maturity that comes with years of putting one’s life into song.  Here again, the stage is packed with obvious talent. With instrumentation a clear focus, each piece is an opus unto itself, their tones and themes reflecting across the symphony, all capped by Orlowski’s suede baritone and the laser-like precision and tonal quality of pianist and background vocalist Torry Anderson. As Orlowski sings the refrain from “Way You Are”, saying “you’re not alone,” there’s no way you could be. The rising musical swell wraps and fills the room, holding you in your joy.


Andrew Harris is a music fanatic. He also loves his cats Mac and Cheese.

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