Kevin Devine is a fine, charming performer, but the lure of seeing him in a fully intimate setting in a supremely weird location was too hard to resist.
New York City's Rocks Off! Concert Series essentially lets concertgoers take a cruise ship along the East River in Manhattan while watching a band play on the second floor with a roof over their heads and the sides opened up. It's as surreal as it sounds.
Brooklyn's the Walkup was first and played a 39-minute set of Brit-influenced indie rock. My accompanying friend brought up a comparison, vocally, to Nightmare of You, and while musically they didn't clearly establish a debt to any certain 1980s acts, it was relatively on point. My attention drifted at a number of points, but the band had enough bounce, solid structure and command of melody to keep me mostly focused. Nothing I'm going to check out further, but not bad overall, and the boat patrons surely needed an introduction to the night for adjustment purposes. We began to realize the boat would occasionally rock from the waves rather heavily (no pun intended) and we'd be forced to keep our balance along while being entertained. The band themselves of course had a nice challenge in these situations, but pulled it off without problem and an amused smile on their faces.
The bands were sharing drumkits, so there was a rather seamless transition between. A short 10 minutes later Devine had stepped up with his acoustic guitar and was all set to go. The speaker seemed blown and whenever Devine strummed hard on his six-string the gross fuzz damaged the song, but luckily he was careful and mostly avoided it for the set. He let the crowd know he'd start with the "only boat song" he has, a new one he didn't give the title to. Funny enough, the song sort of sounded like one of Tiny Tim's ukelele ditties.
The city lights looming along a panoramic landscape all around the boat, the rest of Devine's Goddamned Band then stepped up to take their respective instruments and the band busted into a couple full renditions of tracks off Devine's 2005 effort, Split the Country, Split the Streets. They remained there for a good 11 songs, including the first break after "The Shift Change Splits the Streets" as we passed by the Statue of Liberty.
After "Me & My Friends," the band took some seats and left Devine alone to play a few by his lonesome. Devine began by letting the audience know he would fill some requests that were being shouted throughout the set. That section ended with "Splitting Up Christmas" and Devine decided to play a few surprises. It began with a Wilco cover and a new song, both of which no one knew, and was followed by Brand New's "Play Crack the Sky," which everyone knew. It was definitely a pleasant surprise, and the audience was quite receptive of it without coming off too cult-ish -- plus, as Devine mentioned, it was sort of appropriate considering our location.
Devine had preceded the Brand New favorite by promising that he would play the first request that he could hear shouted after the cover was over. Almost an hour and a half into the set already, we began to pull into the docking station and that song ended up being "Ballgame." As the boat came to a complete halt, "Ballgame" had ended and Devine made a flawless transition into the last few bars of "Every Famous Last Word," the closing song off his other band's final release, the fantastic Last Gasp EP by Miracle of 86. It was another surprise, and a more than satisfying way to finsh things.
Set list (9:29-10:58):
- new song -----
- Yr Damned Ol' Dad
- The Shift Change Splits the Streets -----
- Refugees -----
- Just Stay -----
- A Flatline Blur -----
- You're Trailing Yourself -----
- No Time Flat
- Cotton Crush -----
- Whistling Dixie -----
- Me & My Friends -----
- Brooklyn Boy -----
- Harvest Moon -----
- Write Your Story Now -----
- Splitting Up Christmas End of request filling
- Misunderstood [Wilco cover]
- new song -----
- Play Crack the Sky [Brand New cover] -----
- Ballgame / last few bars of "Every Famous Last Word"
Solo [filling requests]: