Friday, September 11, 2009

River City Extension @ The Fire

Ever since I caught River City Extensions' lead singer Joe do a solo set earlier this summer I have been anxious to see the whole six member crew perform live. Finally I had the chance to see them last week and it was far more incredible than I was expecting.

Like the Avett Brothers, their record (while entirely enjoyable) falls a little ahead of the pack while their live show is amongst the best I've seen this year. The music also has a vastly different vibe from the alt country sound of their recorded material. Instead, it is southern rock with heavy punk influence. RCE consists of the usual bass, guitar, drums as well as a cello, floor tom, assorted horns and percussive implements; and, this septet do their thing with a degree of energy and enthusiasm that could almost be considered another instrument.

The openers were ok but did very little to amp up the audience for the kind of intensity RCE had to offer. 3/4's of the way into their first song though they managed to draw people in from the bar and get everyone on the floor moving. Each member, regardless of the instrument's traditional roll in a band, plays in such a way that makes you really pay attention to who is carrying the rhythm, who is laying out the melody and who is providing the chaotic pulse that typically drives their songs. The cello, played by the v. talented Jenn, provides a soaring thread to tracks like Elephant while also managing to rock out on others.

Watching them play I realized that RCE is one of the few bands whose bassist takes more than a supporting role. In a few instances James carries the melody so deftly it pushed the floor tom to really pull out more of those juicy bass tones. The percussionists both took turns picking out lines in each song to emphasize or challenge to really build the depth of RCE's overall sound.

Oh, and I can't forget the horns. Switching between a baritone horn and a trumpet I really enjoyed the character and punkishness he brought to the floor. Often he served to reign in the massive storm of percussion but not without adding his own flair. Joe,the circus leader and head vocalist, was playing through a bloody finger but didn't let that effect his delivery. Just as sincere and balls out as he was when I saw him play solo there was a raw emotional element on display when he was on stage interacting with the full crew. Tearing through Clever & Quickness I was in awe watching them all push it a little harder. On the songs, like (I Had Thought About This In) Marc where everyone sings you really feel their charge at full force.

Watching them during their last song, as they played acoustic in the middle of the audience, I got that feeling in my stomach that these guys are headed for much bigger venues. I can only hope their next album harnesses the power of their live show. If you're in the NJ/NY/PA area try to get yourself to one of their shows. They are playing Philly again on the 25th at the North Star Bar.

(If I Had Thought About This In) March

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