February 10, 2005

ON THE BEAT

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Damnwells do just fine as headliners

The Damnwells
Maxwell's -- Hoboken, N.J.
Jan. 29, 2005

Over the past few years, The Damnwells have been paying their dues. They've warmed up crowds for many of their contemporaries (such as Jesse Malin, The Yayhoos and Marah) and built a reputation as one of the East Coast's finest live acts.

The band's Bastards of the Beat album earned much praise from the type of snobby music critics who could have merely dismissed the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based quartet as a regional favorite. With that touring experience and a strong album under their collective belts, The Damnwells -- singer-guitarist Alex Dezen, bassist Ted Hudson, lead guitarist David Chernis and drummer Steve Terry -- took the opportunity late last month to impress as headliners at Maxwell’s.

Opening with "God Bless America," a new song, was a bold move that gave the band's fans not only a glimpse of what is to come from their new material but also showed a great deal of confidence in themselves as performers. Sprinkling additional new material into the set showed that The Damnwells had what it takes to be unique, confident headliners, and the band was rewarded with solid response from the crowd.

Once the group got into the Bastards of the Beat material, it delivered for sure. "What You Get," an early standout, saw the band channeling the oft-compared Replacements with a great blend of killer chorus and strong guitar riffing. The comparison between the two bands also was embraced on the full length version of "A**holes," which was given a fleshed-out treatment that included not only a direct pessimism right out of Paul Westerberg's playbook, but a great slide guitar lead by Chernis.

One of the contributing reasons for The Damnwells' appeal as a live act is their ability to present the many moods of their work in a concert setting and not leave them on the album. Some bands falter when they have to take the crowd down after a string of uptempo numbers, but not these guys. "I Will Keep the Bad Things from You" marked not only the midpoint of their set, but it also served as an example of how a slower number can draw the audience in. Dezen's lyrical delivery was a standout; it seems that his "whatever it takes" demeanor might come from past experiences.

As the set came to a close, "Death After Life," another new song, provided the band with a true alt-rock amp shaker and led perfectly into the jangly power-pop of "New Dehli." The quartet used the old false encore trick before putting a final stamp on the evening with their single "Sleepsinging." With it, The Dammwells gave the people what they wanted -- a blend of driving rhythm and swirling guitars.

Support for this show was provided by Surefire. The band had a tight guitar-driven sound as well as tons of swagger and attitude. On a few occasions, the lead singer thanked the people in the crowd before they clapped. "Rock N'Roll Eyes" was a standout in Surefire's brief set, as well as a spot-on cover of the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song "Listen to Her Heart."

-- By Mike Madden

Posted by medleyville at February 10, 2005 09:25 PM
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