By: Bill Clifford
Josh Dion Band :: 05.02.08 :: Highline Ballroom :: New York, NY
Meet the Josh Dion Band . The son of Tom Dion, drummer of the legendary Connecticut band The Shaboo All Stars, Josh performed with the University of Connecticut jazz band as a teen. Accepted at The New School as well as the Manhattan School of Music, the drum prodigy instead attended William Paterson University, where he met the future members of the Josh Dion Band (JDB). Initially, Dion and bassist Brian Killeen toured as the rhythm section of the short lived, avant jazz combo, Ulu. Keeping a journal while on the road, Dion began to write his own songs, which formed the foundation of Give Love, the JDB's independent 2005 debut.
|JDB :: 05.02 :: NYC|
The JDB built its reputation in the rock clubs of New York City in front of a fast growing legion of fans. Live, its 2006 sophomore CD captured the essence of the band, a raw, uninhibited energy and passion they churn out onstage. But, their most recent CD, the creatively titled Anthems For The Long Distance, released in conjunction with a CD release show at NYC's Highline Ballroom, truly represents this young bands' potential. Though the CD took some time to see the light of day, Dion couldn't be more proud.
"We finally learned that what we need to do is plug in, get a good sound and record it," he said prior to the show. "We spent a lot of time waiting for others to help us make the 'Big Record' or the 'Big Single.' All along, people have responded to our live energy, so we just got fed up with waiting for the man and we did it ourselves."
The JDB drew over 400 fans to the recently opened lower West Side venue; most, like the band members, were in their early to mid twenties. Dion sings with a gruff yet resounding baritone with a passionate, intent vocal delivery belted out from behind a small (four drums and three cymbals) kit. While his kit may be small, his method is anything but, as he pounds the skins with unbridled enthusiasm and reckless abandon.
For this gig, the four-piece Civil Salvation Horns flanked the JDB on stage, reprising their guest spot on Anthems. On the rousing opener, the rhythm and blues infused "Makin' My Livin,'" the horns deepened the old school funk 'n' rock the JDB pump out, yet didn't' overpower the vocals and bluesy rhythm.
"We wanted the horns to blend in and add color, not to necessarily be a focal point," said Dion. "We're looking for a rustic, old-fashioned, Salvation Army kind of sound!"
Raising a drumstick in the air, glancing out over the fired up crowd with his eyebrows raised, Dion urged the audience to sing-a-long. In contrast, on "Line Em' Up" the horn section really made itself heard, pumping up the volume and the energy level of the room. Also, harmony vocalist Sarah Versprille, situated behind a single bass drum and various percussion instruments, sang with vigor and fervor on the chorus.
JDB :: 05.02 :: NYC
Killeen took to the upright bass on the thumping romp of "Walking On Stilts," with Dion and Versprille's vocals, a sultry combination of his baritone and her silky soprano. Clicking his sticks together over his head, Dion enticed the crowd to hand claps on "Porch," the slight intro to the rhythmic "Feel," during which Dion shouted out to the crowd, "Who's alive tonight?" Songs such as "Pilot" and "Hold Fast" demonstrated a newfound sense of pure melody and harmony, the latter featuring both ebullient horns and unison vocals from Dion and Versprille. Always an anticipated highlight in any JDB performance, the duet between Dion and Versprille on "Let's Do It Again" didn't disappoint. Set to a jaunty keyboard backbeat laid down by Pat Firth, this sexy ballad saw Versprille singing fervently with her eyes shut, her hands raised above her head emotionally, feeling the passionate lyrics, which always gets the crowd howling for more.
The Josh Dion Band is a young, talented group of musicians who are steadily growing a legion of dedicated fans up and down the Northeast coast. With songs such as those represented on Anthems For The Long Distance and performances such as this, it won't be long before they're playing to the rest of the country.
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