Friday night, I felt that rare breath of fresh air that you always yearn for in New York City. As the weather is getting colder and summer becomes more of a memory, Levy and the Oaks was there to remind me that the crisp fall air can be just as sweet as summer. Combining the soulful rawness of rock ‘n’ roll with the feel good sentiments of grassroots, Levy and the Oaks quickly put a smile on my face from the first verse of the first track they played. As this was the album release show for their recent self-titled LP, a majority of the songs they performed came from the album. They opened the show with “That’s Me,” which rattled off relatable and personable lyrics in the form of wonderfully rich harmonies. It was clear that the warmth of their sound is completely genuine.
They followed the delightful opener with “DC To Daylight,” in which that harmonically rich sound returned, delivering a line that we have all been waiting for throughout the week, “I’ve been wishing for hours that is was Saturday.” This song showed of their Americana sound, which was very refreshing. Chris Colon’s slide guitar playing was utterly soothing. Next came one of my favorite songs on the album, “Out of the Blue,” which lead singer, Duane Okun delivered beautifully as his voice permeated the walls of the venue. Their sound was quickly proving that it should not be contained within the walls of the Studio. The drums, played by David O’Neal, were a driving force on this track, which continued to pick up the energy in the room. They followed with the fun riff to begin “Girl’s First Baby,” which transported me from the city to somewhere out in the country.
To change the pace of the evening, Levy and the Oaks played “Father’s Watch,” which was slightly reminiscent of that that teen angst music that we all know we loved so much. The accented high hat was a perfect addition to the epic, rhythmic tightness. This song is very reflective, and the lyrics were sweetly nostalgic, as Okun and bass player Lou Panico belted out, “I can paint a mural of the past!” Panico provided a perfect harmony for the group’s overall sound. There was something purposely emotional and gritty about the combination of Okun and Panico’s voices. When Colon joined in to make it a three-part harmony, the sound was nothing short of wonderful.
Before playing “Love With the Lights Off,” Panico revealed that it is favorite track on the album, and that it almost did not make the cut. He mentioned how glad he was that it did, and I have to agree, as this track is one of my favorites as well. This song was the most low-key; as Okun traded his electric guitar for an acoustic and let those chords really take shape. The guys brought the big sound back with “You Had Me There,” in which the drums sat on the back of the beat, making way for the cool and resonant guitar licks to come through. As that track came to a close, Panico introduced “Slowly in the Water,” which is the debut track from the LP. The song invites you along for the journey for “something to believe in.” The hook is catchy and by the end of the song, I found myself singing along with Okun. This soul-filling track was on the tip of everyone’s lips by its end, as most of the crowd was singing along as well.
Before closing out the show, the guys judged the Halloween costumes in the room, and the winner was dressed as Edward Scissorhands, in one of the most impressive costumes I have ever seen in my life. As we all know, there are quite a lot of costumes to judge in New York City, so a costume contest win is not an easy feat, but they certainly picked the right costume to win the contest, along with lots of free merchandise. Now that Levy and the Oaks had opened up the stage to the crowd for the contest winner, they extended the invitation to anyone who wanted to sing along to their last tune, a cover of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” The performance of this song left everyone dancing and singing along. They even offered percussion instruments to some of the audience members who joined them on stage, and together as a community, we all enjoyed that last song together. I wish the set went longer because I really enjoyed Levy and the Oaks, but that was a great way to end the show.
Article: Alex Feigin