Monday, September 26, 2011

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Interview and Concert Review @ Bowery Ballroom September 24

Listening to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s studio recordings, their songs are carefully crafted pop tunes full of traditional harmonies but with quirky electronics and fuzzy guitars thrown in for fun.  In live performance however, the band puts the emphasis on the fun as those elements rise to the forefront along with classic concert experiences like multiple lighting cues, costume changes and bubble machines.  This duo from Detroit, Daniel Zott and Josh Epstein, provide all this without losing site of who they are – two wacky musical dudes from Motor City.  At the Bowery Ballroom September 24, they shared lead vocals, instruments and commanding positions on stage to bring their music to life for their fans.  As their lyrics pronounce, “Life’s too short to play it safe.”  When Zott calls out “Come on, let’s dance,” he doesn’t exclude himself as he leaped around the stage, shaking his hips and playing guitar.  And Epstein could still sing out while hopping along with the crowd without missing a beat.  Drummer Michael Higgins provided the high-energy backbone required throughout the night. 

Epstein and Zott entered proudly wearing baseball jackets of the first place Detroit Tigers, not the NASCAR jumpsuits the band has been sporting onstage during previous gigs.  Motioning to their fans to get their hands up and smiling to each other, they began with the steadfast melody of “Morning Thought.”  By the third song the jackets were off, revealing matching short-sleeved shirts with bowties.  “Hello NYC,” Epstein said, introducing the band.  He then launched a discussion of things Detroit shares with New York, which mainly included basketball stars such as Isiah Thomas, Allan Houston and Chauncey Billups.  The band then offered “When I Open My Eyes,” with Epstein banging on a big drum downstage along with other surfaces found nearby.  Later, he began the opening lines of LCD Soundsystem’s “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” to huge cheers.  This heartfelt rendition was a nice nod to the city. 

The band then continued their own compositions, including a new song “Don’t Tell Me” which was written during a week-long break at home.  The ending of their single, “Simple Girl,” became a full-blown explosion of sound, disintegrating to a halt.  Another cover, “We Almost Lost Detroit,” by Gil Scott-Heron, became an impassioned plea for their hometown while rocking out the chorus.  For the encore, the pair returned sporting their neon checked jackets from the photo above to bring the 80s hit “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” back to life as the venue became one big dance party.  The night ended past midnight with the more-measured “Nothing But Our Love,” and the lyrics “I get more then I deserve.”  This band is getting everything they deserve and more.  Ending a week that began at the Austin City Limits festival with stops in Charlottesville, Virginia, D.C. and Philly, there was also time for a quick call to chat with me via PopMatters. Full write up with interview here.

Onstage with bubbles!!!!!!!
Introducing myself to Josh Epstein before the show...
for a quick photo op with another interview subject!