New York is easily one of my favourite places to visit. At any given time, there’s something exciting going on in the city. This time around, I caught the very end of the CBGB Film Festival and the beginning of CMJ. I only got a taste of the latter with Sondre Lerche’s all too short set this evening. His gig was hosted by writer Michael Azerrad, founder of the website The Talkhouse and writer of the very wonderful book This Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground: 1981-1991. This evening, for me, was a celebration of Sondre Lerche’s incredible charm and a time to shine a light on Azerrad’s website, which Lerche recently contributed to.
Sondre Lerche (pronounced Son-dre Ler-kay) is only thirty-one. It’s astounding to think I’ve been listening to this guy for ten years, a time when we were both young pups. What’s even more astounding is that he wrote some of my favourite songs of his before turning twenty-three years of age. Lerche is a musical prodigy, high up there with three members of the Beatles and Zach Condon of Beirut. Some things come easy to people and I am envious. At the age of thirty-one, Lerche appears older in-person than he actually is. He was in excellent form tonight with his core two bandmates who reside in Norway. They were in New York to record Lerche’s new album. There was a particular comfort and enjoyment Lerche was sporting this evening and I have a feeling it was because of the presence of his bandmates. Additionally, this was Lerche’s first show in a very long time, perhaps even of 2013. He expressed how much he “missed us,” meaning playing for an audience. Much in the vein of Canadian Thanksgiving, Lerche was expressing immense gratitude. His sincerity shone through brightly, which made the performance particularly wonderful to watch.
I was surprised to hear all of the old tunes he sported. I suppose with a seven album catalogue, there’s a lot to chose from. He opened up his set with Two Way Monologue opener “Track You Down,” which despite being nearly ten years old, sounded as playful as ever. The line “you were naked/which was weird,” always makes me chuckle. There was also a coy look when Lerche delivered them. It was really a weird mash of tunes: slow, fast, plugged, unplugged, solo, with band, old, new. Well, just one new song, which sounded excellent.
I was overjoyed to hear my favourite tune from his self-titled album, a song titled “Domino.” The tune features a lazy guitar riff that works eloquently and translates just as amazingly live. Many of the tunes he played developed into a hard jam at the end, while not completely true to their studio versions, it was still really exciting to see Lerche and his band completely let go, in the best way possible. Tunes like “Airport Taxi Reception” were played with vigor, as expected, but it was unexpected jams in fan favourite “Two Way Monologues” and “Faces Down” that surprised me most.
He played a few tunes alone, one of which was the one new song he showcased. His two bandmates crept up on stage half way through the tune and Lerche genuinely looked surprised. He had forgotten that they had worked on the song in the studio and didn’t realize that they knew how to play the tune. After the tune, the band clipped out to let Lerche play the very delicate tune “My Hands Are Shaking,” which was used in the film Dan in Real Life. He played this tune without a microphone claiming he “doesn’t always like one of those things in his face.” I was really surprised to hear “Sleep on Needles” as his closer. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised because he introduced it as the only good set closer he’s ever written, based on that introduction, he’s likely done it before. He followed his statement claiming that he’s still trying to write a good album closer, but “they’re so hard to write.” Lerche is modest and mega attractive, really the ultimate man!!!!
Before he introduced the last song, he called out Delicate Steve onstage. With no response, or anyone entering the stage, Lerche shyly asked if he was even in the building. Again, no response, his drummer commented that he thinks that Steve had run off to play another CMJ set at another venue. Lerche mentioned the two had been emailing regarding collaborating on a tune and that he realized they had never even met! A bit of a flop at the end, but Lerche and band played it off cool.
This show was my favourite Lerche show since his 2007 gig at the Mod Club in Toronto. I assume it was because it was the same band he played with six years ago pushing the very good album Phantom Punch. I remember how much fun it looked like he was having and tonight, it looked like just as much fun.
I was surprised to see how empty the venue was, it certainly was nowhere near selling out. This was my first time at the Bowery Ballroom, despite residing so close to it with each visit. It’s a great little venue that I would guess fits no more than 1500 people. Another gem to add to the list of amazing things in New York…