The Living Room
May 20th 2009
The miserable venue—cynically named The Living Room*—was cold and covered with stickers and fliers advertising upcoming and past shows. Songwriter Justin Lamoureux of Midwest Dilemma sat in the back corner, humbly offering his merchandise while Brad Hoshaw completed his brief sound check. Hoshaw, a folk singer from Omaha, sang songs that recounted low life moments and hurtful memories. It isn’t that these songs were uncomplicated because they were thoughtless or uninteresting; they were uncomplicated because they dealt with the “oh fuck” moments of every individual who has drank in bars too long and made bad decisions with clouded and deluded minds. Some may say these states of bar stool savagery are rooted in some inner turmoil born in childhood and thus are necessarily complicated, but Hoshaw isn’t a damn psychologist. He has a formidable voice and a sharp stage personality. While many might criticize his attachment to the stagnant genre of whiskey pickled folk music, he could just as easily explain that this music has existed forever and will continue to exist as long as there are local watering holes willing to cater to the legions of eager drinkers roaming the mother-fucking world. Oh and that Blue Bicycle song was so damn cute.
Justin Lamoureux took stage, traveling to New York under his pseudonym Midwest Dilemma. He explained to the folks listening that he often feels conflicted when playing the City. He comes here wide eyed and wondrous, but he sees people move through New York without awe or interest. Do they know where they live? Is he supposed to expend every ounce of energy and soul, playing in a city where people are despondent and unimpressible? Should he sing his guts out for a few navel gazers? The thing is, Mr. Lamoureux is good enough that he can ask these questions. He can have these expectations. His record Timelines & Tragedies is simply incredible. Despite all his ambivalences, Lamoureux picked up his high-action, nylon acoustic guitar and told his family’s stories with piercing emotional expenditure. His lack of accompaniment did not detract from the songs, which are typically performed by a multitude of musicians. This is not to say that the 22 other musicians heard on Timelines & Tragedies are unnecessary or superfluous, rather simply that the heart of Midwest Dilemma can be defined by the narrative told by Lamoureux. The stories are without question prime.
Peasant began his set without so much as a peep of a sound check. For those who have not been hip enough to know who Peasant is, take some time and do yourself a damn favor. Go out and buy, steal—whatever—Peasant’s latest release On the Ground. As Frederick Foxtrott has been mentioning for nearly two years, Peasant, aka Damien DeRose, has a voice that is as tender and contemplative as they come. He simply began his set performing his material chronologically, singing some old dusty songs. Peasant’s stage presence continues to be unassuming. Another Brooklyn musician sitting in the audience mentioned to me that he couldn’t believe DeRose’s voice was coming out of his body. The dude’s voice is flawless. His set of love damaged ballads was a great match up with the other voices and stories in the night’s line-up. Musically, the night was well worth the trip to the Lower East Side.
* The Living Room is the worst fucking venue in NYC. Okay this may be a bit of hyperbole at work, but here is what you need to know about this shit hole. The shows are free, but the catch is that every audience member has to buy one drink every set in order to stay in the venue. Now I have to say, I am not one to go to a show and lay off the sauce, but for fuck’s sake! My 5’4” girl had a beer and wasn’t exactly ready for a second when the waitress approached. She asked what she could bring Hills, who naturally declined. Hills was then informed that she’d have to leave. I had drank 2 pints during the last set, you would think that the boyish bodied waitress would have had enough brains to put this all together. So I kindly ordered two more beers, both of which I drank. This fucking bar is so insecure about their ability to sell alcohol that they mandate a drinking schedule to their guests. I suppose Hills should have had to drink 5 pints in 3 ½ hours. I count the days until The Living Room goes out of business.