It was a warm winter Friday night and the street lights and holiday decorations glowed through the mountain mist in sleepy Woodstock, NY. But just down the street, the foundation of The Colony was shaking as a capacity crowd danced the night away to home town heroes The Felice Brothers in the middle of their New Year’s Eve run of shows.
After playing Rockville, Hudson, then Boston, the band was tight and the audience that packed in the venue-surrounding balcony was excited for a band that grew up, wrote an awful lot about, and clearly loved their local fans and the area. The lights that hung across the stage and throughout the venue gave a warm ambiance and this warmth could be felt in the crowd as nearly everyone sang along, danced, or did both to the new and older material.
Ian (guitar/vocals) and James Felice (keys/accordian/vocals) along with band mates Jesske Hume (bass/vocals) and Will Lawrence (drums/vocals) led off with a mix of tunes from their most recent album and then went all the way back through their catalog that spans 15 years. Both Ian and James are seasoned song writers and, as musicians, can make material about a bleak winter or drowning one’s sorrow in whiskey into foot-stomping barnburners. Yet, the next moment might find Ian gently strumming his guitar while he and James croon about family woes in a song that sounds like it came from a campfire during the Civil War.
Ian Felice introduced the song “Wonderful Life” from their 2008 self-titled album noting, “I wrote this next song in a cemetery just down the road.” Though some might categorize The Felice Brothers as folk/Americana, there are moments of pure rock, ’90s grunge, swelling punk, and tenderness and sweetness that transcend through the spirit of the audience as well as the haunted Catskill Mountains.
“Me and you we did the same damn thing,
We fell in love knowing the pain it would bring,
Now all I do is sing…. sad songs with red eyes,
Throw your arms around me,
Let’s keep this quiet,
Hear our hearts in the distance like cannon fire,
See our breath in the window, in the turning light,
Oh it’s a wonderful life.” -Ian Felice “Wonderful Life”
After a beautiful, solo opening set from Allison Olender of the amazing group Upstate Loves You, The Felice Brothers did not disappoint. They were called back twice for encores. The Colony is a great venue, with a full bar and small plates from the kitchen that come out quickly. The sound engineer had a perfect mix for the room as well. Ian and James just keep getting better and their shows capture a raw energy. The next night they closed out the New Year’s run in Brooklyn and, at the end of the month, head to Europe for a tour before a couple of festivals in April.
Setlist: Lincoln, Katie Dear, Awesome Bomb, Let Me Come Home, Cheeky Momma, Homeless Red Neck, Whiskey In My Whiskey, The Kid, Wonderful Life, Cherry Liquorish, Hometown Hero, Savin’ Up For President, Life In The Dark, Take This Bread, Love Me Tenderly, Frankie’s Gun, Penn Station
Encore: Salvation Army, Companion, Sell The House