On record, The Felice Brothers can sound like folk minimalists even when they’re trying to make a big sound like on their latest release, Celebration, Florida. The few tracks on Celebration that sound like honest-to-God rockers are laid a bit flat by the inability of studio wizardry to capture the manic interplay the Felices have naturally. All anemic qualities dissipate in their live show, however. The Felice Brothers turned up the volume for a Friday night crowd and burned through their sizable catalog at Charleston’s Pour House.
Openers (as well as Felice labelmates and local Charlestonians) Co warmed up the crowd in amicable fashion, letting their solid rock songs ring out with modest aplomb. Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell and drummer Creighton Barrett were on hand to check out Co.’s set (Bridwell contributed backing vocals on one of the band’s EPs) and, while the band lacked the fervor and immediacy of The Felice Brothers, the music felt right for the beginning of the night.
The Felices loaded the front of the show with heavier barnburners, never slowing down to look up or even exchange glances with each other. The reception was loud for “Honda Civic” and “Fire at the Pageant,” the two opening numbers, and though I would have loved to hear the crowd holler a bit louder during the chorus of “Pageant,” it was still one of the more fired up moments of the show (I personally find it extremely cathartic and more than fun to scream, “Everybody calm down, please stop shouting” at the top of my lungs—but that’s just me).
After the opening numbers, other crowd favorites and Felice gems showed up to mixed crowd response — mostly, I think, because everyone seems to have a different “favorite” Felice Brothers song. Some folks screamed for “Run Chicken Run,” others for “Ponzi,” and even more for the amped up version of “Cus’s Catskill Gym” and the boozy ode to friendship, “Take This Bread.” About the only song everyone could agree on was “Frankie’s Gun” as it received the biggest cheers of the night, beers thrust high in the air.
Ian Felice spent the entire evening plugged in with his electric hollow body guitar and handling most of the singing duties, while James Felice alternated between accordion and keys and lead the crowd in a singalong of “Whiskey In My Whiskey” — but, by far, violinist Greg Farley stole the show with his energy and musicianship. Not that the other men aren’t capable musicians (they are, indeed) but Farley seemed more comfortable interacting with the crowd than either Felice Brother or Christmas Clapton, who made the room positively boom with his basslines.
“Thanks for coming tonight. We know you all work hard for your fifteen dollars,” Ian told the crowd before firing off into “The Greatest Show On Earth.” It’s a small detail, but it’s the first time I’ve had a band acknowledge the price of admission to their show. But if it were to come from any band, I would bet on it to come from The Felice Brothers; a band who knows the value of dollar and is willing to perform heartily for it.