Dawn Landes, Norah Jones & Doveman
January's inaugural Burgundy Stain Session began softly with just Sam Amidon and Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) on stage, but for the second show in the series (2/8 at Le Poisson Rouge), Bartlett, the host, took a different approach. "Tonight, I thought we'd start with everyone on stage," said Bartlett excitedly, prompting nine additional musicians (dubbed by Bartlett as his "all-star backing chorus") to emerge from the audience and assume their positions. Crowded around a few mic stands, the group launched into a sweet, melodic Doveman song, "Angel's Share." (Beth Orton had to cancel due to 'unforeseen circumstances.')
Modeled after a salon, the Burgundy Stain Sessions are largely unscripted and free-flowing. "Sorry I didn't give anybody a set list," Bartlett eventually confessed. "I don't even really have a set list. I'm just making it up as we go." But instead of resulting in a sloppy mess, the music came together nearly seamlessly, thanks in part to the grand maestro, Doveman, who conducted both verbally ("I need A flat right here!") and with his animated body language (sudden glances, wild head nods).
Following the happy unification of musicians at the top of the show, the spotlight shifted to unannounced returning guest Glen Hansard. Once he had procured a pick from someone in the audience, he was ready. At the last Session, Hansard turned to Bartlett and announced, "none of your jazzy shit," but on Tuesday night, he seemed to be going along with it, as evidenced by their first song together. Apparently the song was brand new. "So Glen recorded that not too many days ago," Bartlett revealed. "His friend went to take a walk and he wrote it."
Many of the musicians are long-time friends and collaborators. Bartlett and Hansard met six or seven years ago (Bartlett can't really remember), and Amidon entered the picture long before that as was evidenced by the impromptu reunion of Popcorn Behavior, the childhood band Bartlett and brother Sam and Stefan Amidon (ages 13, 13, and 10 respectively). In addition to a Popcorn Behavior song, Sam played a song or two of his own, including "I See the Sign," which featured Doug Wieselman on bass clarinet.
Next up was Steve Salett who showcased some songs from his project, The Poison Tree. (His debut album is due out in March.) Much of Salett's songs were marked by technical difficulties due to some cell phone interference, prompting the group to stop while Bartlett switched his cell phone to airplane mode (it turns out his phone wasn't the culprit), but the show continued, thanks to Salett's booming baritone and his picturesque songs about the broken-hearted.
Apart from Glen Hansard (who was also present at the last Burgundy Stain Session), perhaps the biggest surprise guest of the evening was Norah Jones who performed a couple of songs, including a lovely cover song by the late Canadian singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle, "(Talk to me of) Mendocino."
Since Le Poisson Rouge was set up in the round, the performers faced inward on stage... with exception of the theatrical Justin Bond, who made sure to sing to the whole room. Before beginning to play, the snarky, morose performance artist managed to both hit on Sam and get the whole room laughing. "I'm feeling horny and generous tonight," said Bond by way of introduction. "So someone might have a very nice evening tonight... and it might just be me." Bond played a series of songs, often featuring lyrics borrowed from (delightfully risque or provocative) poetry.
The "genderqueer" singer definitely elicited the most laughs of the evening. "I've got some bourbon. It's in a plastic cup, but it looks like glass, so hey! I'm all for things that look like one thing and are another," joked Bond. It was wise to conclude the show with this rousing performance, but the end still came rather abruptly and unexpectedly, leaving Bartlett to quickly ramble off next month's collaborators: Elysian Fields, Martha Wainwright, Sara Quin (from Tegan and Sara), Dawn Landes, David Thomas Broughton, and more. Tickets are still on sale for that show, and for Sam Amidon's show at Glasslands, and for the one Justin Bond has coming up at Joe's Pub on 2/20.
More pictures from the 2/8 show below....