Black Mountain-based musician, former Choosy Beggar and he-of-late-with-the-oddly-named bands, Seth Kauffman shows off his mastery of many genres (bossa nova and dub among them) on the most recent Floating Action album. Before the CD-release show at the Grey Eagle, many Kauffman fans were already raving over the hyper-original, entirely catchy passel of songs.
But as Floating Action on the album is essentially a one-man band, there was the floating question: How would the music translate live? There might not be a better answer than drummer Evan Martin's hop-time intro to the quirky pop ditty "Marie Claire," adding even more bounce to the song than on the studio track.
The audience at the Grey Eagle bounced right along. As it turns out, Kauffman is not only a master of clever songwriting, he has a knack for putting together a monster live band, grabbing Joshua Carpenter on bass, Martin on drums and the effervescent Michael Libramento on guitar. Carpenter recently played a series of Northeast shows backing folk legend Rodriguez; Martin and Libramento most recently collaborated with stephaniesid, though Libramento's making the rounds in a number of stellar bands lately.
Energetic Libramento played foil to Kauffman's cool character. While Kauffman, clad in a sporty headband, played evenly to the side, Libramento (himself often a side player) danced front and center, bringing enthusiasm to the stage with his wild grins and soulful singing. One of the album's haunting qualities is its deft use of harmony, and the Floating Action live band achieved great effect on nearly all the songs, recreating and enhancing the album's vocal arrangements.
The crowd began with a few dancers and ended up in a near frenzy. There was a lot of joy in that room. Which is another Floating Action contrast: Kauffman's lyrics belie an emotional depth one might not notice from the songs' frequent poppiness, but he sings about some serious stuff. “Edge of the World” is more jaunty than the chorus suggests, “50 Lashes” (the album's opener) wields both a singable chorus and a darker theme. But none of that kept the dancers from dancing.
The Floating Action band played a few of Kauffman's older songs, some favorites: “I Bleed Easy” and “Absolute Sway” among them. And they didn't shy from the sprawling, trippy “Cinder Cone,” a masterpiece of psychedelia.
A week later, Floating Action brought the same energy to a house show-slash-cookout — hipsters dropped their hot dogs to shake it in the halls, the living room and in line for the bathroom. Right in the middle of “Don't Stop Lovin' Me Now,” the police suggested that the music was too loud and neighbors were complaining (neighbors presumably lacking musical appreciation).
Undaunted, Floating Action kept the set alive (this time, with windows closed), and no one had to stop loving them.
Floating Action headlines the Beer City Bash at the Orange Peel on June 26.
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