Monday, February 1, 2010

Concert Review: A.A. Bondy

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2010 at 9:00 AM

There are live shows that make me resent the smoking ban, and A.A. Bondy's set at the Jackpot on Friday night was one of them.

click to enlarge bondy5.jpg
Between the dim red stage lights and the slowly swaying crowd, a cloud of hovering smog would have added the perfect atmospheric touch to this melancholic folk singer's performance. Crooning in a husky Southern drawl, Bondy's lyrics and stage banter from the Jackpot's stage were almost unintelligible - but Bondy let his twangy, whiskey-soaked fugue speak for him.

Blending moody Americana with disaffected blues, Bondy's songwriting pinpointed the sound of coming down from a bender in a rural Midwestern town. Gruff, distorted vocals and lingering electric guitar conjured the howl of coal trains and the grit of gravel throughout Bondy's short set, which focused on his 2009 release When the Devil's Loose.

With lanky limbs and chiseled features, Bondy resembled

a modern Townes Van Zandt. A revolving line-up of band members floated on and

off stage from song to song, providing howling lap steel and wavering back-up

guitar for what was essentially a one-man show. (For a majority of the set, the

empty rap of Bondy's knuckles on his acoustic guitar was the only percussion.)

Bondy is careful what he culls from his country influences,

trading traditional tears-and-beers sentimentalism for a harder

blood-and-whiskey sorrow. Heavy reverb insulated Bondy's simple songwriting on

stripped-down tracks like "There's A Reason" and "Mightiest of Guns." Though

stoic on stage, Bondy's quavering vocals and wailing harmonica on "Rapture,

Sweet Rapture" were emotional confessions as frank as his song lyrics. Lighter

numbers were pulled from Bondy's 2007 release American Hearts, filling the space between Bondy's drunken lullabies

with stomping blues jams. "Killed Myself When I Was Young" was a particular

highlight, harnessing the tension of Bondy's tight beats with a folk-punk

explosion.

Errant noise and laughter from the crowd shattered the fragile rapport Bondy was building at times, but Bondy eventually quelled

the chatter from the bar with a continuous haze of sound by turning his tuning

between songs into folky interludes. (Speaking of hazy atmospherics: It wasn't

until the end of the set that I realized what Bondy was chewing during the last

several numbers. It wasn't dip; it was gum. I have to admit, the chewing gum

killed the mood for me a bit.) But with all of the aching sincerity in Bondy's

set, it's comforting that his woozy sadness doesn't eclipse his sense of humor.

"I'm just causing trouble," Bondy quipped under his breath, messing with his guitar and mic stand between tunes.

Bondy closed out his performance with an Americana blues-jam

with his building ballad "A Slow Parade." Keeping with his man-of-few-words

persona, Bondy's farewell to the crowd was filtered through the reverb, echoing

eerily throughout the venue. "Th-th-th-thank you," Bondy mumbled with an

awkward wave, hopping off the stage nonchalantly. The crowd blinked, as though

coming out of a trance: Bondy certainly hadn't lulled us to sleep, but his Southern

gothic folk tales had taken on a dream-like life of their own.

bondy4.jpg

Willy Mason
  • Willy Mason

Willy Mason
  • Willy Mason

SET LIST

There's A Reason

Oh the Vampyre

Mightiest Of Guns

I Can See the Pines Are Dancing

Black Rain, Black Rain

Rapture (Sweet Rapture)

When the Devil's Loose

Vice Rag

Killed Myself When I Was Young

A Slow Parade

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