The Disillusioned Blues Proved It True
Leaving town in the middle of August on a Friday afternoon is never easy. It’s especially hard when the night before there was a local show and half the audience stayed up late with you to party in celebration of a fantastic gig at the oft maligned Knitting Factory, which is as good a place to start as any…. The first of three gigs this past weekend.
As the crowd rolled into the Knitting factory, Thursday August 13, I couldn’t help but recall
the last outing there, on the fourth of July, and how the vibe at this venue didn’t work so well. I wondered if tonight would be different, if there would be something other taking place. The other bands on this bill, which Ellis was positioned in the middle, offered some common ground in musical styling; perchance there would be some fan overlap? It turned out, yes! There was! And it juiced the energy in the room for Ellis and for the band they were opening for. I took the occasion to speak with some of the fans of the other bands that night, causally, and they really felt the energy and musical offering Ellis brought to that stage. This is always nice to hear, especially when unsolicited.
The show itself was short; always the case at this venue. But in the 40 minutes the band had, they covered vast ground; opening the set with the first track off their 2006 eponymous debut and closing with the newest song in their repertoire. The energy was strong and packed in a short amount of time. And there was no shortage, as the strength of creative purpose remained with the band through the entirety of this run. Interestingly, each show increased in length from the last. From this first night in Brooklyn at 40 minutes, to 90 minutes in Providence, to two sets in Dover NH, (Set 1, 1:20; Set 2, 0:55) totaling 2 hrs and 25 mins. The energy kept ramping and the approach to creatively constructing sets was very much alive from the first note to the last. If you’re a fan of this band, this was a special weekend.
There is a greater purpose to this writing. I purposefully titled this piece with a lyric from “On” off the upcoming Ellis album (already a live favorite) and played once this past weekend. The line, “The Disillusioned Blues Proved It True” written by Alex Major, is the kind of observation that is easy to note, to give, to spread, but often hard to receive, to heed, hard to synthesize into pieces of your own experience… but utterly significant. Upon literal analysis of the words, we have a lyrical take on cyclical viciousness striking out immediately in the form of the well-considered self-fulfilling-prophesy; The disillusioned blues, proved [themselves] true. But the second thing to consider here is not just the cyclical nature of the thing, but also that your own disillusionment with whatever is no one’s fault but your own. Powerful stuff: The blues that are the product of your disillusionment are fueled by it, turned “on” by it, controlled by it. And with the realization that If you are the one controlling your own blues, your own disillusionment, your own vicious cycle; then you are the only one who can stop it, break free of it, transcend it. A multi-faceted concept for sure, but logically very linear; a conditional statement. This is the lesson of the lyric, the lesson of the weekend, the lesson of the year. We cannot control the bad things that happen, the bad things people in our lives do. The daily struggles and annoyances and frustrations will come and go regardless of what we endeavor, because they are a manifestation of ourselves. You have to be HUGE to make HUGE. For a weekend, this band was doing both and the result was an incredible expression of music to all who witnessed. It was HUGE and an important reminder to me that getting to that place is up to each of us individually and to all of us as a group. If you don’t like how it’s going, if you’re feeling the disillusioned blues, look no further than yourself, and get serious about fixing that first. If each of us can do that, and no one is exempt, then maybe we’ll all be harmonious and EA will provide the soundtrack. Here are your annotated setlists:
Friday, August 14, 2015: THE SPOT UNDERGROUND, Providence, RI
Set: Skunk! > When Will This End?, Don’t Give Up (I’ll Be Around), That’s Where You Come In, Scarlet Begonias -> They Say, Dig Thru, So Simple, Frankenstein, Out On The Tiles, Good Time Blues -> Sledgehammer, Absolute Value
**This very loose and spirited show contained lots of banter and a playful attitude between band and audience. Natalie had to leave stage at one point and was losing her voice throughout the night, which led to gaps in her singing on both this night and the next.
John announced the names of Skunk and WWTE after WWTE in a very formal and serious way after introducing Ellis Ashbrook, the band, not the individual members
Similar to his earlier introduction, John introduced TWYCI after the fact
With Fire On The Mountain quote
Weird Kazoo banter between John and audience member
By audience request
Great banter following Dig Thru about the genre mashing Ellis is known for, John, in a self-mocking tone said, “Do you guys like reggae country metal? Rhode Island’s favorite Reggae Country Metal band!” An audience member yelled “I’m so confused!”, to which John and Natalie responded, in unison, “Exactsly”
With You Can Call Me Al teases from Natalie
Prior to Frankenstein, John introduced it by saying, “We wrote this back in ‘74”
Prior to Tiles, John ranted, “Almost nap time! Warm milk, I’m teething.
From John, “This is dedicated to the guy in the Led Zeppelin shirt and John Hathaway in the audience, who helped teach me to play guitar.”
After Tiles, Natalie said, “Sorry guys, I am going to lose my voice, but I enjoyed that (singing Tiles) thoroughly.” Then John said, “We have a few more for you and we’ll be on our way. Please tip your bartenders and drink your warm milk”