The River and the Road just returned from their 6 month tour of Australia. In guitarist and lead singer Andrew Phelan’s words, they just came back from making trouble, and are returning to make some more. However, at the Media club on Friday night, this Americana band of four young men made great sounding music instead.
The Media Club, even on a Friday can be hit or miss. I was surprised, walking up to the bar on Friday at 10:00 PM to see it overflowing for the River and the Road’s homecoming show. Their fans missed them while they were away.
When we walked in to hear the opening act, my friend leaned over and asked “Why don’t we come here more often?” It’s a good question. The one room black basement’s barely there stage already was blocked with people. Everywhere, people were enjoying themselves, half listening, half talking, and mostly drinking. The opener frontman was charismatic, handsome, and had a good voice. However the music seemed slightly incoherent, like an arts student with no major, as they delved into different genres, without fully owning one. This is probably, because the band is still young, and the drummer was only on his second night with the band. There is definite potential, but they are still in the nest.
Knowing that the River and the Road had been finalists in The PEAK Performance Project last year, I thought they would be good, solidly good. However, I thought they would still sound like a band that was trying to make it. But, they aren’t a band that is trying to make it. They are a band who is making it, which I am now betting will make it, because I want more music from them.
The show reminded me of the first time I heard the Head and the Heart, who funnily enough have a song called “River and Roads.” It was at Sasquatch two years ago, and I’m still listening to that album. I loved their sound and their songs instantly. It was the same with the River and the Road. I will be listening to them for a long time. While the Head and the Heart gives a more energetic show, the River and the Road is more talented musically and are at the edges of folk, country, and rock where Head and the Heart is solid middle ground folk. Most similar are their lyrical themes, songs about being away, coming home, being broke, and finding yourself while balancing your love life.
The River and the Road began with the two powerful singer-songwriters, Andrew Phelan on the guitar and Keenan Lawlor on the banjo. Rounding out and filling the sound is John Hayes on the bass, and drummer Cole George, who joined the duo in the spring of 2012. Andrew Phelan is a Russian looking Australian, with a long, black beard. His voice is beautiful, and catches a striking balance between raw and polished.
The River and the Road digs into country’s roots with banjo playing Keenan who sounds nothing like country-pop today, is hitting that high country yodel, and making it work with electric guitars. I was waiting for the band to bring out XXX bottles, and perform a song with them as the primary instruments. They could pull it off.
Perhaps most importantly is that this band is strikingly genuine. They aren’t trying to be different, they just are. They are telling their stories, and hoping that everyone has a good time listening to them. Simply, the River and the Road is a talented bunch, making great music, and give a show worth going to.