Note: Photos and video only. I started an account once but got busy and never completed it. If you're curious as to my initial, and unedited thoughts on Jody Shelton, then you can click here to see it.
I moved to Boston about three years ago for a myriad of reasons. One of which was the number or touring bands that came through the city. A high college-student/target demographic population ensures that nearly every touring band puts Boston on its tour itinerary. Living here has rewarded my social calendar immensely. There is, however, a city about four hours south that trumps Boston's show calendar hands down. New York City not only gets added to the itinerary of every touring band, but also hosts countless European bands that fly into the US to play a single show. These are buzz bands touted in the pages of the NME, bands that are hip and taking chances, bands that are still looking for that US label to release their debut CD. These are precisely the bands I want to see. This show was precisely the type of show I couldn't see anywhere else.
The subway ride took longer than expected, causing me to alternate bites of my Curley's suno sandwich with worried glances at the clock on my cell phone. The first band was scheduled to go on at 7:30, and by the time I paid the bill, my phone warned it was 7:33. I tipped big, before dashing into a cab to take me down to The Mercury Lounge. Showing up late for the band that put you on their list is more than bad form; it could get me blacklisted by a fickle publicity/promotions company. Things in New York are like that – or so I've heard.
After satisfying the doorman, and thankfully finding my name on the guestlist, I made a beeline for the front of the stage. The web-advertised 7:30 start time deferred to the 8pm start time posted on the door, and then both gave way to the whims of the first band, which made its way to the stage at about ten after the hour. Irrespective of the delay, this was still an early show time, even by Boston standards.
Opening the night was Jody Shelton – a quartet led by its vocalist/keyboard/guitarist namesake. As the set began with a sweeping, Coldplay-esque tune, I tried to get my head around Shelton as a frontman. A cheap M-Audio keyboard obscured Shelton from the waist down, but from the waist up he was wearing a black shirt and a black tie. I thought that went out of style years ago. His mumbled vocals barely formed words, leading me to wonder if he was scatting through an unfinished song, or if that was just his style. After the first song he seemed embarrassed by the applause. I looked at the audience behind me; the band had attracted quite a draw for such an early start time.
Looking around the stage at the assembled players, there were a few things that immediately jumped out at me. First, a bass player with a 5-string bass and a soul patch. Again, when was the last time you saw a soul patch? Second, all the band's gear was knock-off, no-name brand. The drummers Yamaha kit screamed "My dad gave this to me for my 13th birthday." Still, the band did sound good.
As the set went on Shelton's voice opened up a bit. Although it was generally a gravely and strained rock voice, he could control it up to a clean falsetto. Both styles and everything in between were pleasant, but not very engaging. After the second or third song, Shelton introduced his band in a thick Tennessee drawl. Things began to make sense. Shelton wasn't embarrassed, but genuinely humbled. Shelton made the most of his down-home appeal, relaying a story of his visit home to the holidays where he played the band's debut CD for his family. His aunt only shook her head and ask "Jody why'd ya haveta go'an join a heavy metal band?" Jody shrugged while the smug audience applauded.