Words & Images by: JC McIlwaine
American Babies :: 04.24.08 :: Pianos :: New York, NY
American Babies are a great act to see live. Their sets do great justice to their energetic, emotion-driven brand of alt-country rock. One of the best things about catching them live is watching them compete with the crowd for the title of "People Having The Most Fun."
|American Babies :: 04.24 :: NYC|
Drummer Joe Russo (Benevento/Russo Duo) played in all three bands that made up the bill at Pianos, a smallish bar and music venue on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. But, this fact took nothing away from the excitement he gave the Babies' set. He spun his sticks in the air, tapping them together between beats. After only the second song he had already broken a drumstick – on both ends. As he ran to the car to get another set of sticks, guitarist and lead vocalist Tom Hamilton mused, "Being the consummate pro that he is, he doesn't have any more sticks [on stage]."
Tom and his brother, bassist Jim Hamilton, along with guitarist Scott Metzger chatted with the crowd and prepared to play a cover while awaiting Russo's return. But, before they even had time to re-tune, Russo was back, sticks in hand. Tom joked, "Since he quit smoking two weeks ago, he made it in record time." Jim quickly added, "Jesse Owens over here, ladies and gentlemen."
The band played an hour set that was short and to the point, covering most of the songs on their eponymous debut album. Slow ballads like "Baby Don't Cry" bled into rockers like, well, the aptly titled "Rocker," and some songs exhibited a bit of both qualities. "Brooklyn Bridge" started off slow, with Tom playing his acoustic guitar and singing alone before the rest of the band kicked in and turned it into one of the best of the night. "You swore up and down / Not this girl, not this town / There goes my girl," sang Tom, pouring out the vocals over the rest of the band's musical backing. Jim sang along with the chorus - not into the mic, but just to himself - along with the rest of the crowd.
American Babies :: 04.24 :: NYC
The highlight of the night came later, when the band showcased their potential for genre-bending. After the core of the song "American Babies" - a slice of Americana on par with Wilco - they brought the music down to a whisper. Russo softly slapped his legs for percussion as Tom messed around with various effects pedals and Jim and Metzger joined him in creating a spacey atmosphere. After a minute or so of this, the band brought the volume back full-bore as Metzger broke into Guitar God power chords. Before anyone knew what was happening, the Babies slipped back into the end of "American Babies."
As the band readied their final song, Tom said, "It's naturally a fuckin' pleasure playing for you. Check out the MySpace etc, etc, etc. We've got a CD for sale. Come over and say, 'Hey, I liked the set'." Hamilton and his bandmates's stage banter, always casual and often funny, is representative of their stage presence. They're just up there hanging out, playing great music and having a great time doing it.
So, you really should go see American Babies. "Invite Your Friends" (as the first song on their album suggests). Have a beer. Better yet, have two. Please dance and feel free to sing along. If you're lucky you'll have as good a time as the Babies.
JamBase | Big Apple
Go See Live Music!