Langhorne Slim‘s Saturday, Jan. 21 show at The Grey Eagle was sold out. The line was out the door, the bar was packed, the kitchen was cranking out batches of sweet potato fries on overtime and the crowd was already feeling no pain by the time Slim (aka Sean Scolnick) and his band took the stage. They launched into “Rebel Side of Heaven,” with Slim bouncing off the speaker cabinet and losing his hat (albeit only temporarily) in the first song.
By the third song, the bombastic “Cinderella,” the audience was filling in the response of the call-and-response chorus; by the time Slim started “Colette,” the standing-room-only crowd was singing all the words.
Still, no one seemed more surprised about the packed venue than Slim himself who announced from the stage that it was the band’s first time selling out a show in Asheville. “I don’t know where all you people came from, but thank you,” he said. And he performed like he truly meant it. Not that a Langhorne Slim show is ever less than high energy — the guy is known for his folk lyrics performed on acoustic instruments with wild eyed punk sensibility. But at the Grey Eagle, the show felt, from the opening notes, capable of flying completely off the rails at any moment. In a good way.
Wearing a neckerchief and a gold chain, Slim performed much of his show peering out from beneath the brim of his trademark black bowler. He pogoed (with guitar), sang from the edge of the stage while his fans grabbed for him, got the audience clapping a beat for “Worried” and even on his slower songs, managed to whip the music and energy to a fever pitch thanks to his stellar band (Jeff Ratner on bass, Malachi DeLorenzo on drums and David Moore on keyboard).
While Langhorne Slim is Scolnick’s stage name, the band is so tight and so intuitively connected it seems at times that they’re part of a single unit; collectively Slim. They used to be called the War Eagles, but Ratner and Moore are new members as of Slim’s 2009 release, Be Set Free and the website no longer mentions a separate band name. Which kind of makes sense. Because, while the band could surely not exist with out Slim’s remarkable presence and magnetism, neither could Scolnick reach quite the same barely-controlled frenzy without the considerable talent of his band mates.
The group is set to release a new album on May 22 (learn about it here) and they performed a couple of new tracks including “Five” with the horn players from Holy Ghost Tent Revival (with whom Slim and company are touring). The new songs possess the same thrash-folk aesthetic, all teeth and raw emotion fused with crackling electricity and paramount storytelling. “I wanted her body; she wanted me dead,” Slim sang in one track from the forthcoming album. His voice, in its oft-used upper register, is so painfully ragged and hoarse that the fact that he can, in the next line, drop back to a smooth warm tenor makes it all that much more glorious.
Hopefully Scolnick and his band will return in the summer in support of their new record. In the meantime, watch Langhorne Slim perform “Colette” at the Grey Eagle. Video by Arsenic1313.