"I Woke Up Today"
(Photo by IRockIRoll)
There was a good chance Pianos could've burned to the ground last night. And if Port O'Brien happened to lit the spark that burned down the Lower East Side, it's safe to say that anyone in attendance would've been cool with it. That said, Port O'Brien absolutely destroyed the minds of New York hipsters, who, as usual, stood around like nothing that important was going on. Truth be told, any band that works as hard as Port O'Brien is sure to make a name for themselves. Especially with songs like "I Woke Up Today", a ravaged shanty anthem that felt like a call to arms, a definite highlight of the evening.
While I'm not too familiar with the bands catalog, another undisputed highlight was "A Fishermans Son", which featured one of the most unexpected, yet utterly smooth segues I've heard in a long time. I caught a few songs of theirs back in October when they were supporting Rogue Wave and remember feeling a sort of Arcade Fire vibe. Truth is, Van Pierszalowski bears more than an uncanny resemblance to a Mr. Win Butler. But throw similarities out the door (like when you think of My Morning Jacket/Band of Horses/ Fleet Foxes) because Port O'Brien is a savaged beast of a band with the seemingly rare ability to "take ya to church." A blood wrenching assault of banjos, tin cans, Americana guitars and shout along vocals transformed Pianos into what felt like a Depression era labor rally in Hooverville. Working class punk rock for kids who don't get skinny jeans, neon t-shirts, and guyliner.
Throughout the evening Port O'Brien kept reminding me of the Pogues, which makes sense as Van Pierszalowski and Shane MacGowan share a similar blood boiled intensity and both bands bash through a ramshackle revival of traditional folk music. Drunken shanty town sing-a-longs for sure. Port O'Brien's blue collar spirit is real (Pierszalowski works on his fathers fishing boat in Alaska every summer) and would make Woody Guthrie proud. Robert Hunter once noted the best compliment he ever received was from a coal miner in the Cumberland Gap who actually thought the Grateful Dead's "Cumberland Blues" was a real miners tune. Something tells me that the fishermen in Alaska will one day be saying the same thing about a high percentage of the Port O'Brien catalog. Expect to hear about this band changing lives in the coming years (days, months).
(Photo by Pupkin)
After a short break, Delta Spirit took to what was left of the stage Port O'Brien destroyed for a set of their signature retro leaning Americana. The band, who seem to have miraculously bridged the time continuum between 2008 and sometime back before I was born, was in fine form, playing a host of new songs and selected gems from last years Ode to Sunshine. Things seem like their in full swing for Delta Spirit; their performance a lot tighter and, for better or worse, sleeker than when we caught them at Maxwell's last Fall. (Coincidently, not long after seeing Port O'Brien at the same venue.) The San Diego quintet treated the sold out (?) crowd to "House for Two", "Strangevine" and "People C'mon", amongst , including a few new tracks ("Oh Vivian", "Throwing Stones"). A very poignant show from Delta Spirit, who finished with their trademark social reform ballad "People Turn Around." Like the last time we saw the Spirit, we left wondering the same thing: Why the hell aren't these guys huge?
Port O'Brien is self releasing a new album, All We Could Do Was Sing, on May 13th. Needless to say, after last night, we are really fucking psyched about it. In the meantime you can feast your ears on a few tracks from their recent Daytrotter session, including an alternative arrangement of "I Woke Up Today" titled "Simple Way."A video of "I Woke Up Today", although incomplete, is a indicative of Port O'Brien's live show. It's bad ass.
Port O'Brien- Simple Way (Daytrotter Session)
Port O'Brien- From Port(Daytrotter Session)
Delta Spirit- French Quarter(Daytrotter Session)
Delta Spirit- House Built For Two(Daytrotter Session)
Port O'Brien "I Woke Up Today" Live in San Francisco