Northside 2014: Syd Arthur, Fort Lean, Kevin Morby
Syd Arthur at Northside Festival; All Photos by Laura Baker-Finch
Brooklyn, New York -- Promoted by Palladia, taking place during Northside Festival, and hosted by Jim Shearer of VH1's Top 20 Countdown, it was quite the sponsored-night Thursday at the Knitting Factory. Though, as 9:45pm rolled around and the crowd flooded into the venue from the adjoining bar, it became quite clear what the draw to the evening was.
Syd Arthur, the Canterbury-based prog-rockers formed 40 years after their genre's prime, faced an audience divided into two camps - the over 50s reliving the aforementioned Canterbury scene heyday and the young adults who appreciated the sound just the same. Syd Arthur (formerly Moshka, formerly Grumpy Jumper) may only be comprised of four members, but they each pull more than their weight, creating a booming, intricate sound of electric and unplugged instruments.
Playing through tracks from both On An On and the recently-released Sound Mirror, Syd Arthur's improvisational element became all too clear. No song sounded exactly like their record versions - not necessarily better, but definitely not worse. Liam Magill, Raven Bush, Fred Rother, and Joel Magill's togetherness showed their years of practicing, performing, and growing together, but more impressive than conciseness was the room they allowed for play and improv - the funk to their psychedelic rock.
Nowhere was this more clear than during set-closer and On An On standout "Ode to the Summer," if only because it's arguably their most known song. Lyrics were more syncopated and beats harder to anticipate. The live rendition breathed new life into the song I've loved and listened to over and over again.
Before Syd Arthur's set, Kevin Morby (of The Babies and Woods fame) graced the Knitting Factory crowd with tracks from his debut solo album and homage to New York City Harlem River. Noticeably, but not disappointingly, missing his backing band, a solo Morby charmed the audience with his roots-oriented lyrics and vocals and impressed them with his acoustic-intention when playing his electric guitar.
Harlem River recorded sounds fuller than Morby's live rendition Thursday night, with Babies' drummer Justin Sullivan and acoustic guitars to accompany the electric, though his solo take was more transfixing. Even audience members unfamiliar with Morby both as a solo artist and as a band member, were taken to swaying, bopping, and yelling praises at the stage by the end of the set.
Closing out the night after a brief interlude to celebrate the winner of VH1's "Make a Band Famous" winner was Brooklyn's own Fort Lean. The crowd had noticeably dwindled by the time the quintet picked up their instruments, but they delivered a vivacious performance as if the crowd was 100 fold. My attention was brought back to the near empty room, however, as lead singer Keenan Mitchell singled out a friend by the stage, Lauren, who "look[ed] beautiful tonight."
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