This past weekend The Wonder Bar was a Rock N’ Roll house of worship showcasing two of the top acts of the scene, Almost There and Tara Elliott & The Red Velvets, on back to back evenings.
Despite the frigid climate in which we’ve chosen to nest, the cockles of my heart were warmed as even the iced earth and sheets of frozen winds whistling in off the boardwalk could not dissuade the substantial group of music craving patrons that hustled in from the cold to see the next generation of Rock Stars currently emerging from our storied hotbed.
It can be difficult to find new features of the same act to write about, and after observing Almost There as many times as I have these past few months, it’s a challenge. But on Saturday night, with a full 60-minutes of time slot at its disposal, these guys gave me something new.
It seems the Pop-Punk trio’s immense joy for the “cover song” is unrivaled. It’s as if the band runs through it’s originals just so it can get to various selections from the likes of Sublime, Blink-182, and Weezer faster. And why shouldn’t they? That is, after all, the music these guys grew up on, the tunes that inspired them to pick up instruments in the first place. The grins upon Eddie Soles and Zach Sicherman’s faces during the “Santeria” guitar-solo, the possessed glare in Phill Serzan’s eyes when he channeled Blink-182’s original drummer Scott Raynor on “Dammit” is the prime example of a band not forgetting where it came from, and a real inspiration.
And speaking of what inspires us, Tara Elliott, front-woman of the Red Velvets, transformed the intimate Wonder Bar setting into a VH1 Storytellers’ sound stage, doing what few musicians are willing too, when not bound by television production contracts, let the audience in.
“This was a fantasy of mine,” said Elliott of ‘Ride,’ the second track off the band’s 2010 self-titled debut EP (#9 on SIMGE’s list of Top EPs of 2010) “I wanted to speed down the highway on the back of bike with a certain rock star. Nothing ever happened, but I wanted it to.”
“A friend of mine inspired me to write this next one,” expressed Elliott. “I was going through a tough time, hung up on an ex and he told me ‘The best way to get over someone is to get under somebody else,’ and that became the title of this song.”
“The Best Way To Get Over Someone Is To Get Under Somebody Else” will be on the new full-length the band is currently recording. Although the process has stalled thanks to Adam Sandler of all people (Happy Madison Productions hired Jackson, NJ engineer Jake Valentine away to California) Elliott expects the self-produced LP to be out this year.
It’s no secret that Elliott commands much of the spotlight on stage, and rightfully so, for she is the most powerful band leader I’ve seen in the area, but we must not overlook the surrounding body of work done by the band’s new drummer, Lisa Lewis, and bass player Jeff Phillips.
Lewis does noble work pounding out the beats for such raucous tunes as these and, according to Elliott, she has done wonders for the chemistry of this outfit.
As for Phillips, he tops the list of local bass pluckers I’ve seen this year. And after viewing his talents on several occasions, the fact that he wasn’t even a nominee for “Top Bass Player” at last years Asbury Music Awards blows my mind.
But Phillips isn’t bound to the rhythm section, in fact, he seems to be a sorcerer of the stringed instrument ripping through intricate guitar solos when the opportunity presents itself. An example of the of power he wields over concert patrons was played out before my eyes in the form of a pair of Rock N’ Roll lovebirds. During the opening salvo, the couple head-banged hand in hand along to the bass line during the band’s rendition of Iggy & The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” By shows end, Phillips had the pair gazing into each others eyes while slow dancing to his six-string solo on “Take The Time.”
It was an amazing transformation mentioned at the bottom of this piece only because it was supposed to remain unspoken. My apologies to…well, you know who you are.
NOTE: This weekend Almost There plays a free show at Starland Bllroom in Sayreville on Sunday night and Tara Elliott & The Red Velvets is at Otto’s Shrunken Head in NYC on Saturday night.
See a lineup of shows in the area here. SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC…IT’S IMPORTANT!!!!
Tara Elliott & The Red Velvets Setlist:
- I Wanna Be Your Dog (Iggy & The Stooges)
- You’re Not My Best Friend ++
- Beautiful Lies ++
- Teenage Secret
- The Best Way To Get Over Someone Is To Get Under Somebody Else ++
- Don’t Lose Your Fire ++
- Love Just Ain’t Enough
- You’ll Be Sorry ++
- Take The Time
“++” denotes songs on the upcoming album.