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20 Watts Reviews the Positive Jam by 20watts
While The Felice Brothers and The Rural Alberta Advantage impressed, Deer Tick stole the show

Deer Tick stole the show at Positive Jam this past weekend

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Deer Tick’s “Houston, TX” MP3
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Positive Jam: Exclusive Coverage on 20 Watts

The glistening water from Cayuga Lake reflected The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Amy Cole’s black shades as the band got on stage, kicking Positive Jam off with a nice cup of Ithaca Beer’s microbrew. Despite the audience being burnt out in more ways than one on the sunny Sunday afternoon, The Rural Alberta Advantage pulled off a show with class as an opening act. The Canadian threesome gave the term power trio new meaning with frontman Nils Edenloff singing like a mellower, folkier Billy Corgan, while Amy Cole played an eclectic mix of instruments from the glockenspiel to a tambourine.

Watching The Felice Brothers — “America’s Greatest Subway Band” — perform was like watching a great Americana musical with farm animals and drums of whiskey.  Although he’s not technically part of the family, washboard and fiddle player, Greg Farley is practically a one-man show. Acting out the lyrics and playing his seemingly secondary instruments with the gusto of a lead guitarist.  That’s why these cool, relatable guys are so likeable, and if you don’t believe me, check out our interview with James Felice.

While chilling out between sets in scenery reminiscent of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band cover, the sound of a tribal bass drum hypnotized some audience members to return to the stage. Deer Tick walked onstage to this dramatic buildup. After their first song, lead singer John Joseph McCauley held up his beer bottle and announced, “I haven’t had breakfast yet but a porter is like a meal and a beer” and took another swig before they broke into “Houston, TX,” a song inspired by an ex who dumped him on Valentine’s Day. For a band looking and acting more like frat brothers than talented musicians, they had their Dylan impressions down pat — in both McCauley’s rough, folky voice and their new guitarist’s wild hair and tiny frame.  The high point of the set was “La Bamba,” and although the closing song choice was surprising at first, it ended a fun and crazy set perfectly.

Sadly, after a day full of exciting music, the show’s headliner, The Hold Steady, failed to surpass the greatness of the supporting acts.  Craig Finn’s voice was as distinctively nasal as expected, and while his nerdy excitement was endearing, something was definitely amiss.  Following such young, high-energy acts, the band seemed washed-up and comparatively family-friendly. We in the crowd questioned their title as “America’s Greatest Bar Band.”  They played favorites like “Magazines,” “Southtown Girls,” and “You Can Make Him Like You” along with a few new songs, but the only memorable performance was the sing-along “Massive Nights.”

— Charlie Weeks and Carly Wolkoff

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