The swooning songsters Widowspeak played their first post-pandemic show with a performance announced only a few days before. It all went down in the small backyard spot at the Ridgewood, Queens venue and nightclub called H0L0 in a bill that included local veteran experimenters Oneida. This was also my first show since the Covid pandemic shut down all the concerts almost a year and a half ago and shuttered most of us inside for many months, apart from a few stoop-front and park-busking jazz performances along the way. It was an intense sensation to experience the elated adulation and artistic conception of seeing live music in your actual presence, and is something that just cannot be substituted by something like a live stream event.
Opening the show was a band of young rookie rockers called AN-R-C, and I thought the guitarist and the drummer were particularly impressive. Then, greenness was replaced by artful veteran frolicking when Oneida took the stage. If you were seeing shows in the 00’s in the NYC area it was not hard to trip over these guys playing a show somewhere, and if you stopped listen, you will have become awe-struck and transfixed in their experimental groove, much like the first time I saw them play at the old Northsix venue in 2002 when they opened for Mudhoney, when I nearly lost my mind to their tripped out jams. They did play some new and old tracks, but it all got whipped up in a deeply tasty improvisational bouillabaisse that really brought back the old feelings of bursting excitement of seeing competent live music and expert musicians do what they do best once again. They were then followed by a newer band Savoia. This quartet only formed back in 2019, when they ironically called themselves Early Retirement, but they have clearly acquired some rocking chops in their short time together. Some of their covers worked out better than others, I found their take on The Rolling Stones “Sympathy For The Devil” to be rather uninspired, but their impression of The Stokes “Last Night” slipped right in comfortably with their rather sardonic baritone sound.
Before their set even started, Widowspeak’s singer and rhythm guitarist Molly Hamilton said “I’m thinking my stage banter is going to be so awkward for the next two years as I regain my social skills and simultaneously re-battle stage fright,” and that really did connect with my own feelings of bumbling back into a social function and actually talking to other people face to face after being in what seemed to be an endless and isolated quarantine. Before breaking into the song “Plum” off their album by the same name released nearly a year ago during the height of the pandemic, she said, “This is the first time we’ve actually played this song in front of other people,” and it was insane to think that apart from a few live streams, they have not been able to play their newest hit single to their biggest fans. Molly and her writing partner and lead guitarist Robert Earl Thomas have been wooing in fans in for over a decade now since they broke out on the NYC scene in the late 00’s, and I remember seeing them in more than a few backyard and small random backroom shows before they broke into big headlining concerts. Molly’s delicately soft vocal delivery and Robert’s deliciously dreamy guitar layers combine into a bewitching brew that enchants your heart and takes your mind to other worlds. They blend an otherworldly, dreamy, and shoegaze-y ambiance with a more grounded darker singer-songwriter element that, to me, often brings back of spirits of Mazzy Star and The Cowboy Junkies to those heartstrings once pulled. It seemed like they did play mostly songs off their last album Plum, but there were some classics like “Gun Shy” and “Dog” that were sprinkled through the set list. The show is still living under my skin and yet I can’t wait to get another dose of their hypnotizing live serum.
Article/Images: Dean Keim