Words & Images by: JC McIlwaine
Ola Podrida :: 02.02.08 :: Union Hall :: New York, NY
I rolled into Union Hall an hour and fifteen minutes after the published showtime, hoping to cut to the chase of the night's main attraction, only to find about twenty people in the basement stage area mingling, drinking and waiting for the bands to make an appearance. We didn't have to wait long until opener Ghosts I've Met took the stage with a nice assortment of instruments. The usual drums, bass and guitar were supplemented with cello and electric violin. The crowd hung back a little from the stage, not wanting to appear too eager (this is New York) or get right in the band member's faces in the tight quarters. As the group worked their way through the first couple of songs, the audience inched slowly closer to the ground level stage.
Ghosts I've Met is the kind of band that grows on you quickly. Their alt-country sound is reminiscent of an early Whiskeytown. The lyrics aren't that far off either. Singer Sam Watts sings about love found and love lost. A sampling from "Radio Towers": "I don't know why I keep dancing with you / But the streetlights they dance with you, too." Their songs have a way of transporting you to a space and time of being young in the South some ten or twenty years ago – even if you never were.
Next, Andrew Kenny, who plays guitar and sings in American Analog Set, took the stage with drummer Sean Haskins. The two started off with some American Analog Set songs, including "Punk as Fuck" and "The Only One" (both off 2001's Know By Heart), before getting into a couple of Kenny's newer solo songs. To say Andrew Kenny is a man who believes in nuance would be an understatement. Watching him play, you can tell that he hears notes between the notes and feels waves in subtle shifts of rhythm.
The third and last act of the night was Ola Podrida. Andrew Kenny also plays in Ola Podrida along with several other Brooklynites, but it's in frontman David Wingo's lyrics and singing that the band finds much of their identity. They tested a couple newer songs on the audience before getting into tracks from their self-titled debut album. "Jordanna," a slow ballad full of longing, came off nearly as gut-wrenching as it does in the studio. "I don't know if there's any point to it all," sang Wingo, "but I still love hearing your voice".
| Ola Podrida :: 02.02 :: New York|
The remainder of the set focused on their debut. "Instead" built slowly, starting with soft finger-picking and the promise of a climax that never really came. However, it worked, leaving you wanting more, like so many things in life. "Cindy" is one of the more intense album cuts, offering a snapshot of a woman setting fire to her own house, only to reenter it to get her forgotten library books. "She slowly walked back down the street / Into the burning debris / She couldn't take on any more late fees," sang Wingo. The song built into a Modest Mouse-like melee until it imploded with one last cymbal crash.
Ola Podrida is a great band and a welcome addition to the New York music scene, and the folk-rock scene in general. At times the music sounded eerily reminiscent of Iron & Wine, Elliott Smith or maybe even the score of the last movie you saw, which makes sense, since scoring movies is David Wingo's other career.
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