They may well have been strangers; a quintet of bleary-eyed, Dylan-loving wanderers drafted in from the nearest art-student bar, each a little more awkward than the next. Pages from a newspaper hang from James Felice's keyboard. David Turbeville's drum kit looks worn and beaten, and fiddle player Greg Farley decides that on stage is the perfect place to tie his shoe laces.
And then the noise begins; the Felice Brothers' bizarre and often scuzzy folk rock cutting through the room with about as much power as you'd expect from a group of players who have just woken up from the previous night's shenanigans. Thankfully, it gets better.
From upstate New York, the Felice Brothers (not all of them are brothers, mind) trade in dirty rock'n'roll, dipping their toes in country, folk and Americana along the way. Throw in some electronic beats, and you have one strange yet oddly enjoyable combination.
Occasionally, the lads will switch places on stage, allowing for, say, the bassist to take the spotlight, or for Farley to hit some drums as hard as he possibly can. But keyboardist James Felice is the real personality here. He'll pick up an accordion and battle with his fiddle-playing partner in crime, proving that accordion players can be rock stars too.
Even lead singer and guitarist Ian Felice gets caught up in the madness, dropping to his knees for effect. But it isn't flashy. And it isn't embarrassing.
In fact, what the Felice Brothers have to offer in a live setting is something akin to a playful rehearsal session, only, with an audience added on (and that's a lot better than it sounds).
The fans seem to appreciate the weirdness -- they even encourage it.
Sing-along stomper Whiskey in My Whiskey does exactly what it's supposed to do. Fire at the Pageant literally lines these boys up for a raucous round of disobedient country rock. It shouldn't work; it shouldn't even sound this good. But it does.
Frankie's Gun keeps up the tempo (the louder and faster these guys play, the better), and there's even room for bread-throwing courtesy of Farley (Take This Bread). Messy but good. HHHII >Chris Wasser