The Felice Brothers
The Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA
April 28, 2011
The Felice Brothers: Old Dog, New Tricks
For the past five years, the Felice Brothers have been Old School, recording and performing classic down-home country Americana, songs of boozing, carousing, the open highway. Kind of Willie Nelson meets Bob Dylan meets Appalachia. Fiddle and Accordion music with a lot of gusto. And they've gotten pretty good at it. They were a band that seemed to have an authentic vision. And damn fun! Three albums and five years of live performances of their rollicking, rootsy sound- kind of leads to certain expectations.
The hardest thing for any band to do must be to experiment with new sounds. The temptation to be lazy is great and there is security and comfort in well-tread grooves. For their fourth studio album (due next week), the FB have decided to bring in additional instrumentation. Less fiddle, more keyboards. This has already generated obvious concern amongst the FB flannel faithful. It's definitely a different, less accessible sound- kind of a jazzy, indie Americana- which would be great except for the fact that FB has been building a reputation for authenticity. Is this Bob Dylan going electric? Not exactly.
Their performance at the GAMH (awesome venue) was interesting and challenging because it violated expectations. They put on a good show but not one I was hoping to see. It is difficult to separate my sense of disappointed expectations from the actual performance. The band did well but the new sound just didn't work for me. They sounded a bit like every other indie band except that they had still had the fiddle and accordion on stage. I've heard this before. Sometimes an old dog should just stick with being an old dog because that is was it does best.