Celebrating the release of her new six-song EP, Get Bothered, Emily Easterly and her sterling band took to the Lexington Avenue Brewery stage on Saturday night. Sharing the bill with fellow local musician (and Xpress editor), Jaye Bartell, Easterly hosted an extremely satisfying, yet all-too-brief, evening of exquisite song craft.
Bartell opened the show with a soft, slow-burning set of ballads that felt excruciatingly heavy in the best way imaginable. His music truly sounds like heartbreak, and it’s great. His deep, Bill Callahan/Smog-style delivery is at once inviting and callous, creating a kind of genuine intrigue that’s rare among modern singer-songwriters.
The set also offered some additional stage time to the show’s headliner. Backing Bartell on drum set, Easterly (along with her husband/collaborator J Seger on bass) navigated each dynamically-rich song with the comfort and savvy of someone who’s been at it all her life. It was a remarkable showing that perfectly preceded her own performance, and it led to one of the smoothest band-to-band transitions I’ve ever seen at a local show.
After a quick break barely long enough to change outfits, Easterly returned to the stage, this time behind a guitar and microphone.
Simply put: Easterly’s music is just delightful. Loaded with the kinetic, riff-driven energy of ‘90s alt-rock (but never dated), her songs are relentlessly hooky from the jump – so much so in fact that “Decent Animal” and “Get Bothered” (both from the EP) have been on an endless loop in my brain after hearing them only one time.
While it was Easterly’s stellar songwriting that stole the show on Saturday, she should receive no less acclaim for her ability to scout talent. Her excellent backing band, comprised of Kim Roney on keys and backing vocals, Andy Woodward on drums and Seger on bass, provided a deep, swinging pocket to support Easterly’s rangy voice and slippery cadence. From start to finish, the band expertly rode the razor thin-line between perfectly out-of-the-way and impossible-to-ignore.
The set ended with a slinky rendition of Garbage’s “Stupid Girl,” an oddly appropriate bow on the evening’s gift of a performance. The song reads as an intentionally reductive critique of pretenders among those who truly work to create and contribute; and here, being performed by a woman who is so clearly not a pretender – someone who has obviously invested countless hours into her craft – the words carried exactly the weight they were meant to. Intentional or not, it was a wonderful way to wrap up the evening.
My only critique was that, as I mentioned above, the show was woefully short with only two performers booked. Because of the overlap between Easterly and Bartell’s bands, the truncated bill made sense. But, I think all of the attendees would have enjoyed a few extra selections from each of these very talented songwriters. However, the free copies of Get Bothered given to everyone in attendance more than made up for it.
Photo by Julia Ritchey