Rock & Roll Isn't Dead: We Drove 5 Hours to See What Band!?
Photo Credit: Brian W. Ferry (emojis added, sorry Brian)
Two brothers playing 2017's A-list summer festivals: Glastonbury, Coachella, Lollapalooza just one year after getting signed and releasing their debut record. Who are they?
There's a mist of glum jealousy that settles in when I drop the needle down on some old record I love and my mom casually mentions how she saw Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour in college. Or when every guy sitting at the bar stool next to you, who you didn't ask to relive their glory days, definitely saw The Rolling Stones at least twice, and can't forget Pops with the ringer in attendance at Woodstock. Aside: one time a friend asked him which acts he saw there to which he replied, "You think I remember that weekend?" And it's like okay guys, we get it! You lived through rock's glory days and we didn't. Let's move on. Question is: where are we going?
For awhile we didn't know. The players are out there, the game board bigger than ever. There are 350,000 artists on Bandcamp, 10 million on SoundCloud, and an endless supply using digital distributors to get their content onto the likes of iTunes and Spotify. Searching online for the best bands in the world right now, aside from the 15-20 who control the rotation on mainstream radio (it's not illuminati it's illumi-top40) is a daunting task. You pray to fall into some wormhole and don't ask what kind of music the worms are going to play for you once you're there. That's when you find comments on YouTube saying, I'm so happy I made it to the "weird" part of YT again!
Then one day someone showed us The Lemon Twigs and it hit us like a breath of sweet fresh UNIQUE air. If you've heard them before howdy neighbor! We're trafficking the same real life or internet blocks. If not, here's the first video we watched to get you started.
Quick fire bio - Fronted by: brothers Michael & Brian D'Addario. Keys: Dr. Danny. Bass: Megan Zeankowski. Location founded: Hicksville Highschool (Billy Joel went there too) Label: 4AD Records released: Do Hollywood and Brothers of Destruction (EP)
If there's one thing a group NEEDS in the 20teens it's not talent or the ability to play their own instrument proficiently, it's a story. Lucky for us the Twigs have all aforementioned, but their story competes with the best. Born to a musically inclined family, their father Ronnie worked as a session musician and has released his own records. Brian says in a Stereogum interview, "...our dad was good and he didn’t get the opportunity that he could have" noting that this had an effect on them to look at music in "a career type of way." Their mom, who encouraged them to harmonize with each other at a young age, was an actress and did musical theatre. I found a great video on her IG account awhile back forcing them, in a kind yet effective way, to sing complex parts until they had them down perfectly. Regrettably at the time of writing this I cannot find my way back there. Damn wormholes. Suffice to say, their parents have played a big part in why they are so good at such a young age. Did I mention how old they are? Just turned 18 & 20. Yeah.
Growing up in such a creative environment it was natural that the brothers toyed with acting for a little while, Brian was in Les Mis in 2006 and Michael played Trevor in the Sinister franchise. These were detours - albeit glamorous ones. It's clear what they've always wanted is musical stardom. There are videos of them playing/singing/and writing nearly every single year of their life out there for those who wish to peruse their growth. Below is a link to some of Brian's earliest songs which he released on BandCamp this June.
Brian D'Addario "My First Songs" - https://brianpauldaddario.bandcamp.com/album/my-first-songs-volume-1
In 2014, at 15 & 17, fed up with the fact they had not yet broken it big time 😭 Brian tweeted Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado “Be Richard Swift for us,” a reference to Foxygen’s own breakthrough. Apparently he had the flu at the time saying to Brooklyn Mag, “I was like, delirious, and I was kind of at my wit’s end." Long story short Jonathan saw the tweet, loved their sound, and produced their debut album "Do Hollywood" released on 4AD in October 2016. We're two weeks short from a year ago to the day it was released. In that time they've played on some of the biggest stages in the world including Coachella and Glastonbury, graced Stephen Colbert's and Jimmy Fallon's stages, and Ronnie Wood, Brian Wilson, Jack Antonoff, Elton John, and The Zombies have all tweeted about them. How did it happen so fast for them? In addition to the fact that they have been practicing, performing, and dedicating their entire lives to music up until this point? Well actually, it's because they've done that. And it's made them f*cking good. Pure talent combined with dedication to music as a craft and respect for the history of the industry is hard to find right now, and that's why everyone is freaking out about them so much.
It's 2017. With an album out and just last week a new EP entitled "Brothers Of Destruction" they're touring on a regular basis and we're surefire fans. The first time they came to our area, we were raring to go and saw them sell out Music Hall of Williamsburg. Brian's voice is crystalline, it soars to the back of the room and bounces back into only your ears serenading some part of your soul that would like to sit in a tweed pant suit with him and discuss why he chose the fifth for that note and not the third. There's a beautiful, logical, perfect aura that exudes from him. Then Michael saunters up to the mic and you're in your right brain. Shouting. Dancing. Staring at him in awe wondering whether he should be locked up, sent to be on the US men's gymnastic team, or hoisted straight up to the top of Rolling Stone's front page. We'd invited a friend along and his girlfriend who left saying, "That's the best live show I've ever seen, hands down. The atmosphere was so inspiring." And we'd have to agree. Just as we were addicted when first introduced by a friend. It seems that their success revolves around the idea, "Build it and they will come." Every person who hears about them goes and tells 3 other friends to listen to their music. Everyone wants to see them live, share their story, feel some of their electric energy live. In Williamsburg we didn't want the night to end, we decided every live show we could go to we'd go again and again. Which is how we got here, driving 3 hours in traffic to New Jersey to see them play at the legendary Stone Pony. Did we say 5 hours in the title? Well, in total. Give us a break, it was to New Jersey...so bonus points.
One of our first shows after turning 21, we were eager to get to the bar and grab drinks. A '007 and corona. We were there pretty early, right at doors so we also ordered some Mexican food they have a neat little burrito stand in The Stone Pony which has surprisingly delicious food at a reasonable price. As we were waiting for our beef burrito and cheese quesadilla the door to our left swung open and out walked a tentative but assured Brian D'Addario. Seeing him my skin started to tingle feeling like a roadrunner stuck in quicksand thinking hey there he is that guy who is so talented that I'd like to say a million things to, what should I say? I nudged Jeremy, "Look!" He nods, playing it cool just waiting for the burrito. Brian turns to us and gestures, "Are you waiting?" Mumbling something, what did we mumble? No go ahead we ordered. The cashier takes his order, moments pass, we should say something shouldn't we? The cashier says, "You're in the band right? I'll bring it back to you." And then he's gone, shuffling away.
I keep bothering Jeremy, "Should we have said something?" "Like what?" "I don't know, you're fucking rad..." "Better to say nothing than come off as lame." "Oh sure, what a winning motto for life."
Sitting, eating, and drinking watching opening act Cut Worms, an indie artist with a unique voice who Brian played bass for, we waited for the venue to fill up a little. Meghan and Danny remained in the audience dancing and taking pictures with what appeared to be close friends and family members, while Ronnie D'Addario meandered around the premises. At one point later on Michael yells, "My Dad's so dumb. My dad's so dumb he got fired from his job at the bank for stealing pens." By the end of the opener's set there was maybe 150 people in the 1,000 cap club. A far cry from the sold out show we'd seen them play a month ago and the packed out festival audiences bouncing on YouTube. How were they going to bring up the energy of this almost dead crowd in a glamorized dive bar which flourishes only in the presence of famous acts "slumming it" for good press? Well, all it took was The Lemon Twigs taking the stage and Brian breaking right in with "I Want To Prove to You" to remind us why we'd come and left us wondering why the place wasn't full to the gills.
The two of them have it, and that's really just the end of this story. They've practiced and practiced and begun to discover the endless essence of their instruments and voices. Dedicated to the craft they bring us a shining beacon in this day in age of make-it-to-the-top-as-fast-as-you-can-and-let-us-stay-there-for-a-minute-then-we'll-leave-no-questions-asked. During the set they played a new song 'Foolin' Around" (linked below, begins at 1:20) which brings their sound to a new height, depicting statements they've made in the press saying their mission is just to make every song they write better than the last and how they're trying to dedicate their, "...whole life to just progress and evolve and to be really diligent about that and to really make that your life’s purpose."
A noble mission however, one thing's for certain they're still kids. They haven't had any true heartbreaks, they haven't burned the candle at both ends for too long yet, they haven't even moved out of their parent's house in Hicksville and all of this shows in their voices, writing, and professionalism. Clearly a little miffed about the show not having a bigger audience at one point when a patron walks through the door Michael says, "Hey man, I think you're too late. The band's already started. Yeah, I hear the band's already on stage." It was funny, everyone laughed. But during the encore when they waited off stage for about 5 seconds before returning and saying, "Okay these will be our last two song" things took a darker turn. Michael casually threw his strat to the ground at one part in the song and picked up a black Firebird which was not plugged in so he flippantly threw it to the ground as well. The guitar took a bad fall, it was a nasty fall, and a juvenile move which showed just how much he wanted the audience to be packed applauding his talent, hard work, and antics. Not to worry, those days will come.
Highlight/Lowlight Moment: An incredibly inebriated man yells out "FREDDIE!" To which Michael responds something along the lines of, "Is that all I am to you man? Queen. Huh? Oh yeah, Freddie right." Honestly, it was totally unintelligible aside from the fact that he obviously wants to be his own star not tacked on to any other categories (Keith Moon gets mentioned quite a lot.) I'd actually been thinking for a portion of the set that he resembled another Freddie, Freddy Kreuger. Michael is very fashionable, they both are, but M in particular shows up with a new look at each appearance not afraid to die and chop his hair off at any moment. He mentions his girlfriend(?) Arrow deWilde influences him, together attending flea markets in LA. That night at The Stone Pony he came out with an almost feminine chic bob of jet-black hair with heavy kohl make up around the eyes and a Michael Jackson hat tucked down over one eye which he toyed with on and off throughout the whole set. Look through any picture you can find, ignore the writers calling them indicative of something else probably a generic reference to a decade in the 20th century(can one thing define the last 10 years of your life?), and you'll see style.
Walking back to the parking lot after the show, very happy that we'd make the trek to see them a girl and her date were walking within earshot of us and we tuned in to hear, "...Yeah but what do you actually think about them? I mean clearly they're talented. Obviously they're so talented, but like what I was reading basically said they're just copying what bands have done before. I so value your opinion. I mean I just want to know if you like them...Yeah? Clearly they're so talented. But something is just off don't you think. I was reading online it said that they're just, derivative..." We started hysterically laughing. Derivative!? What is art without influence? These brothers are artists. They are professionals, and they are going to make a mark in this industry. Anyone who thinks they could have grown out of another era, another decade must not realize that we're in a NEW ONE. From a singer and guitarists perspective the sheer amount of talent and hard work that has gone into getting them where they are, so that they're in the realm of being compared to the best bands of all time is awe-inspiring. And to say they're anything close to derivative is to forget that this is only the beginning. One half of the D'Addario brothers is still a teenager. Who knows what phases they will go through in their musical lives, they have years to move into uncharted territory, and by everything they've showed so far it certainly seems they will do just that. Let's hope they go through breakups, makeups, addiction, descriptions (apologies twigs but pain makes the best art) and keep writing better songs about it every time. We're here waiting to root for you.
We'll be at the next Lemon Twigs show next time they come to the NYC area, hope to see you there too. And someday when our kids look slyly over our way when we mention we went to one of their gigs at the beginning with 100 people in attendance we'll smile remembering how brilliant it was and know that they'll have the same experience with a band in their youth because music never dies. The artists and the audience keep it alive. 🍋✊