All photos by Rob Schell.
Jack and Eliza
The cave-like maze of small dark rooms that make up The Casbah were brightened Saturday night by the warm chords radiating from the two guitars on stage, and also by the smiles beaming from the two people wielding them. The vintage of those guitars uniquely echoed the music they were producing; one a 1960’s Italian Eko with the silver sparkle body, the other a worn Fender Jaguar with a sunburst body, a replica of the ‘63 model. The music wafting throughout the venue also seemed to be a 60s replica. Illuminant tones seemingly soaked in a psychedelic California surf scene which bygone for over fifty years. The source of this nostalgic ride may be a surprise to some, not only because they are New York natives, but also because the two people holding those guitars scarcely look old enough to purchase a beverage in this establishment.
Jack and Eliza made their San Diego debut last weekend. Riding the wave of their debut EP, No Wonders, the friends from Brooklyn have been touring for the past month; stopping in three countries, and major cities on both coasts of the US.
Opening with their song “Secrets,” the duo looked somewhat uncomfortable at first. That momentary awkwardness seemed to pass quickly, and they settled in for tranquil renditions of “Diamonds,” “Oh No,” and “Floodlights.” The Casbah has a stage most bands have trouble fitting on, but these two occupied it with such an unassuming presence, that it left more than enough room for their subdued brand of stripped down pop rock to shine.
The crowd seemed captivated and engaged as the duo wound down. Groups of people who had come early to grab a drink, and talk, were now standing silently, watching the pair with reverence. With their debut LP, Gentle Warnings, hitting stores on August 7th, I wouldn’t be surprised if their next trip to San Diego demanded a larger venue. They definitely made a few fans on this night.
They ended their set with “Hold the Line,” a melodious tune which exemplifies the refined harmonies these two create together. Quietly walking off the stage to warm applause, and quickly disappearing out the side door to the street, they moved with deft humility. The future is as bright as the sun for these two. Watch for them at a beach party near you.
Hamilton Leithauser waltzed on stage Saturday night with a bravado that smacked of something. It took me a couple songs, but then it hit me…Bono. He’s got the impression down pat, delivering a nasal driven, scream-singing with a modern day Rat Pack vibe in his black suit and white shirt and lazy cocktail gesticulations.
And as much as I enjoyed his swagger, I had a hard time getting enthusiastic about his particular singing style. I, however, was in the minority. The rest of the crowd was getting exactly what they came for. They were enthralled as he howled through “I Don’t Need Anyone,” “Alexandra,” “11 O’clock Friday,” and “Dad’s Drunk.” I’ll give the guy this: He tries very hard to sing very loudly. As he screams at the ceiling, the bulging veins on his neck attest to the fact that he’s giving it all to make sweet lyrical love to his audience. Most of the attendees were giving it back to him in full force, creating a filthy Casbah orgy which climaxed in what can only be described as a high volume whimper. But I’m sorry, Hamilton. You just don’t do it for me.
Tonight I’m just playing voyeur.
For the last song of his encore he sang a very crooner version of “5 AM” that I rather enjoyed. I felt he was better when he wasn’t trying so hard. I think I would enjoy his music much more if he were to embrace the Rat Pack persona entirely, and replace the U2 poster above his bed with that one mugshot of Ol’ Blue Eyes.