April 15, 1999
The Fort at the Sidewalk Cafe
With Hamell on Trial and Benjamin Wagner
Thanx to Patrick for the bee-yoo-tee-full memories of a great nite (see below). Props to everyone else who came down to the Fort, with special big big ups to to Benjamin Wagner for rockin' with a smile, to Hamell on Trial for taking me to school, and to the legendary Lach for the support. Peace.
[April 16, 1999 -- New York, NY] Warming up the crowd for
acoustic assassin Hamell on Trial, Albany-based singer-songwriter
Bryan Thomas rocked a packed house here in New York last night
with an inspired solo-acoustic set that earned him two encores.
[Seeing is believing
- watch the video.]
The Fort/Sidewalk Cafe is the East Village birthplace of acoustic punk that launched the careers of breakthrough artists such as Beck, Michelle Shocked, Ani DiFranco and Hamell himself. Fort founder and antifolk legend Lach served as host for the evening, welcoming Thomas to the stage by telling the audience the songwriter has quickly become "one of the favorite performers at the Fort since he started playing here just last year."
With that, Thomas launched into a soulful read of "Apartment D.", a crowd pleaser from his 1997 demo "Wafers and Wine." Billed by Thomas as a "little nursery rhyme about the end of the world," the song was written by Thomas for the soundtrack of the Carl W. Liss film of the same name.
From then on, though, it was a celebration of songs from his new CD Radio Plastic Jennifer, which spent its first three weeks of release as the number-one selling album at online distributor CDBaby.com. There was Closer, a dark, punk-funk examination of angry sex with a cheating lover; the hilarious Mama, in which Thomas confesses to his girlfriend he's more interested in her mother; and the stream-of-consciousness rock-rap of Six, in which he gives props to everyone from Susan Faludi to Slash to the Clay People to Danny Partridge, and even plugs his web site, www.bryanthomas.com.
The centerpiece of the set was the blues-gospel number Cycle. Thomas countered the hopelessness in this tragic portrait of a mother and her son with a segue into a stark, falsetto read of "Amazing Grace" that left many in the room speechless.
As his first encore, Thomas offered a blistering, sexy read of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire," taking the flame metaphor to another level with an erotic spoken-word middle-section. Once finished, he unplugged his guitar and stepped from the stage, but again the crowd called for more. Ironically he closed with the album opener Anymore, a bittersweet story of the hopes and failures in pursuing one's art and muse, inspired in part by the trials and tribulations of Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland.
Just a few hours later, the following review was posted to an e-mail list for Joni Mitchell fans by one list-member who was at the Fort/Sidewalk show.
i just got back from hearing a fantastic 45-minute set by bryan thomas, just him and guitar. picked up his new cd and said hi before the show, and it was cool having the cd in front of me as one song after another blew me away. most of them are on the cd.
my favorite moment was a little two song suite. 'closer,' a mini epic with changing time signatures is a dark song about a cheating lover. it's a journey of feelings in a guitar symphony. he followed that with a lighter song about being the cheater, called 'mama'. the song is spoken to the girlfriend, and it says basically, 'i like your mama'. the best verse (approximately):
you want a passing grade
but i'm gonna have to fail ya
cause you sing like mariah
but your mama sing like mahalia
oof. love that. love the verse that says 'at least i kept it in the family'. love the line that says 'don't tell your daddy, i hear the brother's got a gun'.
his guitar work is amazing. extremely fast and precise strumming, a really good, full sound. my friend leaned over and said 'sweet chords', while we were both lost in a song called 'liquefy' (also on the cd, and beautiful in the recording).
and of course, he's a great singer. the singing highlight was a guitar and falsetto version of 'amazing grace' at the end of a tragic and amazing song called 'cycle,' which is right where i am on the cd, now, so i'm signing off.
Up next for Thomas: a taping of an episode of Capital Region Time-Warner Cable's popular Sounding Board series, which features Albany-area musicians in a coffee house setting.