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The Feelies take control at the Ottobar

March 25, 2013
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The Feelies assumed the Ottobar’s stage ten minutes after 9pm on March 23, 2013, a date which will live in famy. According to Wikipedia Famy is, “a fifth class municipality in the province of Laguna, Philippines.” [emphasis added] Five, that’s the number of encores the Feelies played at the Ottobar on March 23rd.  Coincidence? I think not.

Consider another startling fact; the population of Famy is approximately 15,000 people, or about two times the number of people in the Feelies’ hometown of Haledon, NJ.  The number of sets the Feelies played on March 23rd? Two.  You may want to ask yourself, “Who is in Famy?”  just as an enthusiastic, gesticulating audience member in the Ottobar earnestly hollered “Who is in the band?!” To answer the latter question which the band left hanging at the Ottobar on that fateful Saturday evening, the Feelies consist of Glenn Mercer (lead guitar/lead vocals/lead sunglasses), Bill Million (rhythm guitar/backing vocals/possible escaped college professor), Brenda Sauter (bass/backing vocals/lead Michael Jackson enthusiast), Dave Weckerman (lead rainstick, woodblocks, tambourine, maracas/backing snare and tom drum) and, finally, Stan Demeski (drums).  Feelies diehards in attendance may have chuckled at such a question, but such ignorance is understandable.

In their 20 years of existence, plus a 15 year hiatus if you want to get technical about it, the Feelies released only five albums, toured sparingly– for years they would only play shows on national holidays– and cultivated a devout cult  following.  Judging from the crowd at the Ottobar, Feelies devotion is a lifelong commitment: Middle aged professionals mixed with twenty-something hipsters who stood next to those professionals’ kids.  The Feelies rewarded diehards and neophytes alike with barre chords, patented rave ups, and surprise after surprise in a magnificent three-hour set.

Starting off with an excellent rendition of “It’s Only Life” from their 1988 album of the same name the Feelies quickly moved on to what would be a theme all night long, covers.  Two songs by the Velvet Underground, three by the Rolling Stones, and songs by R.E.M., Television, Neil Young, the Stooges and even the Beatles were touched on throughout the night in what became the Feelies’ Rock n Roll Revue.  Both “Who Loves the Sun” and “There She Goes” were eerie in their accuracy and and splendid in their execution.  But it was probably the way “See No Evil” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” somehow managed to ratchet up the shows intensity again during encore three or four that showed what the Feelies were up to with all the covers.

The band proved to be  just as enthusiastic in delivering their own material.  The first set closed with a trio of outstanding numbers from 1986’s The Good Earth, and that album’s “Slipping (Into Something)” orchestrated collapse brought a glorious swath of guitar noise worthy of “Daydream Nation” to the middle of the second set.

Even with the abundance of riches on display, the highlight of the evening had to be the second set’s closing double whammy of “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms” from the Feelies’ 1980 debut.  The band expertly executed the odd song structures, quick shifts in tempo and dynamics, and the percussion breakdowns that they made their reputation on.  After such a performance it was no small wonder that crowd responded with stomps and an impromptu chant.  The Feelies returned to the stage five more times that evening to play eight covers and to conclude with two more originals, each time upping the dare as to whether or not we really wanted more and if they could deliver in a war of attrition with their most ardent fans.  As one audience member said, “This is the greatest fucking thing.”  I think that basically sums it up.

The Feelies play DC’s 9:30 Club on Wednesday March 25th at 7pm.  Tickets are still available.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.kennedy.9085 Robert Kennedy

    I caught them the night before this in Philly. Wow! They still have plenty of energy and the number of encores was crazy. We kept making for the door at the end of one and another would start up. They sounded great. One of the best moments was when they kicked into REM’s classic “Shaking Through.”

  • Henry Mortimer

    Ugh! Can’t believe I missed this. Saw them at the old 9:30 Club in 1988. Still one of my all-time favorite shows. And sounds like this would’ve topped it. Glenn & Co., please come back!

  • Henry Mortimer

    Ugh! Can’t believe I missed this. Saw them at the old 9:30 Club in 1988. Still one of my all-time favorite shows. And sounds like this would’ve topped it. Glenn & Co., please come back!