Eric Bachmann/ Henry Mena
January 30th 2008
I am not sure how I even heard of Saddle Creek singer/songwriter Eric Bachmann, but for whatever reason, I decided to bust out of Bushwick to see his show. He was playing in Brooklyn, I liked what material of his I had heard, and it was only a measly $15.00.
For those of you who haven’t been to Southpaw before, it is a pretty cool Park Slope venue with cans of beer for $4.00 and pints for $5.00. It has plenty of space, a beautiful dimly lit bar, and a locked up and covered pool table. There is even a coat rack for people who wear coats. I was slightly surprised when I found myself surrounded by nicely complected, upwardly mobile twenty-somethings, all of whom had black pea coats. I was almost convinced that I had walked into a secret society’s monthly meeting. It wasn’t until Henry Mena walked on stage that I remembered that I was at a show.
Now I say, if you can avoid seeing Henry Mena I would suggest it. Some of you out there may enjoy poorly crafted sing-songs; if you have ever considered buying a Hootie and the Blowfish record, Henry may be your man. For the rest of us out there, Henry Mena is poison to the ears. This may come off as a little harsh, but his lyrics are like a 6th grader’s Valentine’s Day card. He could be likened to a train wreck. His affected stage presence was so hard to stomach that for a second I was sure I was enduring a poorly played SNL sketch.
He can say one thing for himself however, he is positive, optimistic, and confident. He’ll love you baby, and if you can’t feel his love, well then, he’ll show you to the door, cause there is a lot of love to give in this world and there are others out there who will join him on his sweet, sweet journey. I know it takes a lot of guts to get up on that stage and sing. No one should tear another artist down; we should build each other up. But this guy was just not my cup of tea, and it shouldn’t be yours either. Does that about cover it? Good.
So as the saying goes, “Without the sour the sweet ain’t as sweet.” This was true for that cold January evening. After Mr. Mena’s set, Eric Bachmann took the stage and arranged his gear. He had trouble getting an ancient looking pedal to power on, and I became a little concerned. Dressed in slacks, a coat, and a flat cap, Bachmann invoked the spirit of the labor worker. Down to his thickly dusted boots, he looked as if he had finished a shift at the mill and come directly to Southpaw to articulate to the pea coat clad audience his blue collar woes.
He exquisitely sang beautiful ballads about love and strife without sounding contrived. His lyrics had a Yeats quality that allowed him to be a little obvious, yet entirely genuine. This dynamic gave a measure of depth to his songs. After the show I almost asked him if he knew that Ireland has a voracious appetite for singer/songwriters such as him. Yes Mr. Bachmann, I am suggesting that you move to Ireland in order to skyrocket your career. It was simply great to see someone with that much talent interact with the audience.
He asked for requests and played them even if he barely remembered the lyrics. This aspect did not annoy the audience, rather it demonstrated that Bachmann considered himself one of them, a part of the people for whom he played, not someone above them. When he could not remember them, he would surgically stop the song to recall the words and the begin again as if the music had never been segmented. The ability to express bitter sweet pain leaves no doubt that his music was made for county Cork.
Was it worth the price of admission? No, I don’t think so. Will I buy his record? Yes, his talent is amazing.