American Babies, ALO & Ryan Montbleau Band @ Highline Balllroom – April 24
Words and Photos: Andrew Blackstein
The Ryan Montbleau Band, ALO and American Babies entered the Highline Ballroom on April 24th with an apparent excitement to be playing before a New York City audience. This Wednesday night gig saw the American Babies open the bill. Led by Tommy Hamilton’s insightful songwriting approach, the Babies showcased a vibrant mesh of thick drum driven improvisation that displayed David Butler’s versatility. The 55-minute opening slot allowed guitarists Nick Bockrath and Hamilton to feed off each others’ parts with great energy and precision. The Babies are working on a studio record that will be out this fall, the new tunes should be a welcome addition to their already impressive live show.
[All Photos by Andrew Blackstein]
After a quick turnaround, California’s ALO was greeted by many audience members who shared their recent Jam Cruise vacation. Overhearing a dozen different requests to “get back on the boat” or “I can’t wait ’till next year’s Jam Cruise” proved that the power of music and a shared experience can long after be recalled for present pleasure. ALO shined on this night from the opening notes of Maria to their cover of Prince’s 1999. Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz’s acoustic guitar work has the ability to range from a Grateful Dead styled funk, to a Beach Boys infused rhythm. Zach Gill and Steve Adams sported smiles as they took turns on lead vocals. Having the first few rows of fans singing along probably helped those smiles move wider as well.
ALO’s long set was the most attended performance of the three, thanks in part to the band’s focus on funk-filled. As an added treat, Ryan Montbleau Band percussionist Yahuba Garcia sat in for most of ALO’s set. He was able to compliment Dave Brogan’s laid back drumming nicely, as he added some extra depth in the rhythm department. Also guesting during ALO’s set was Berkeley-based jazz saxophonist Mitch Marcus, who sat in on I Love Music and Plastic Bubble.
Ryan Montbleau was the headlining name on the ticket, but one would never guess that by the size of the crowd. Maybe it was because it was a weeknight, yet the bulk of the crowd cleared out after ALO’s set. This by no means indicates that the place was empty, however it was noticeable. Not bothered by that observation, Montbleau brought his coffee shop style folk tunes into the Highline with grace and comfort. Ryan was at ease as he told stories, jokes and requested audience participation with a “Stop/ Start” cheer. The Boston bred singer/songwriter invited Zach Gill from ALO up to play the ukulele and Dave Brogan to play drums (as he explained that Dave learned most of the songs earlier in the day because RMB drummer James Cohen had to be taken to the hospital due to dehydration). Cohen was fine and played most of the show, but it was indicator that these two bands got along pretty well with one another.
Towards the end of the Ryan Montbleau Band’s set, Ryan welcomed all of ALO to the stage for a cover of This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads. All of ALO and the Ryan Montbleau Band also collaborated on Paul Simon’s Graceland as the encore. The mutual respect and talent all three bands possess were on display this night, for those who were lucky enough to make the early spring show in Manhattan.
Set: Maria / Falling Dominoes / Blew Out the Walls / Wasting Time (Isla Vista Song) / Dead Still Dance / Walls of Jericho / I Love Music (feat. Mitch Marcus) / Bizarre Love Triangle / Haji Memashite / Plastic Bubble (feat. Mitch Marcus) / Barbeque > 1999 > Barbeque
RYAN MONTBLEAU BAND
Set: Head Above Water / Pacing Like Prince / Songbird / I Can’t Wait / Lovin’ You / Daydream (feat. Zach Gill) / You Crazy You (feat. Dave Brogan) / 75 & Sunny / Hot Coffee in a Paper Cup / Heartbreak Road / Yeah Man / Inspired by No One / Dead Set / This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) (feat. ALO)
Encore: Graceland (feat. ALO)
[Setlists via Dry Paint Signs]