LIVE: Railbird @ Putnam Den, 3/4/11

Sarah Pednotti
Sarah Pednotti

Last Friday night, Railbird was gearing up for their first national tour with a new album, a CD release party and tons of infectious enthusiasm from the band and its musical heart, Sarah Pedinotti.

Headlining the triple-bill at Saratoga Springs’ premier music nightclub, Railbird was the primary reason that the Putnam Den was nearly filled to capacity by time they took the stage. With a $6 entry fee, nothing happening in the region could even come close to matching the quality of the three bands for anywhere near that ticket price.

This time out, long-time fans noticed a reshuffling of the band’s personnel with Railbird’s original drummer Chris Carey taking over electric bass duties, while bassist James Gascoyne instead manned the electric guitar alongside the band’s premier guitarist Chris Kyle.

Occupying Railbird’s drum chair that night was Jeremy Gustin, the energetic drummer from the triple-bill’s opening band and tour-mates, the Rex Complex. And standing off to the far side of the stage was Phantagram’s lovely singer, Sarah Barthel, who provided back-up vocals and electronic synth-sounds to the band’s mix.

Right smack in the middle of the stage was the beautiful and magnificent vocalist Sarah Pedinotti. In front of her was an electric keyboard and to the left, a red toy piano and a variety of effects devices on a stand.

Everything was hooked up, checked out and rechecked again. Finally, the Rex Complex’s frontman K. Rex Hussmann introduced the band, and they were off and running with “Swamp Thing,” the opening track from their brand new CD, “No One.”

Pedinott’s indescribable voice still has that little-girl meow deep inside it, which makes it both endearing and fascinating, especially because she doesn’t sound like anyone else singing out there in musicland. Her songwriting has evolved and matured steadily, album by album, starting as a teenager with a jazz perspective and progressing through her early twenties into a fine pop sensibility. Now, with Railbird’s new release, her songwriting and the band’s overall sound has morphed into a darker and deeper place, filled with acute social and personal commentary. Sarah’s tunes have always had keen imagery and the clarity of real thought and ideas, but this time out the band’s arrangements, sensitivity and dynamics were world-class and ready for the road.

“Strange” faded into “Jump Ship,” an older tune not on the album, and then Railbird closed with “Limo” for their encore. By the sound of the applause and whistling, the crowd certainly wasn’t ready for the night to end, so Pedinotti & company invited the musicians from the opening bands on stage to wrap up the night with an energized, rocking version of “Umbrella.”

Truly making this a special occasion for all who came, Railbird sold their new CD for just $5, and Sarah was passing them out by the fistful to fans and friends after the show.

Opening the triple-bill was Brooklyn bad boys the Rex Complex. With an accordion-fronted punk-meets-Zappa sound, lead singer Hussmann was nothing short of a wild man, dancing around the stage and playing his squeezebox with a burning intensity that would have made the Ramones envious. Of special note was an out-of-this-world rendition of Cab Calloway’s signature tune, “Minnie The Moocher,” complete with the patented call-and-response.

Sandwiched in the middle of the two bands was Flora & Fauna, a spirited group that fused a little Bryan Ferry and lots of ’60s pop-rock sounds with pronounced new wave accents.

Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Swamp Thing
Not Alone
No One
Empty house
Kiss The Wall
Jump Ship

Chris Kyle, Jeremy Gustin and Chris Carey
Chris Kyle, Jeremy Gustin and Chris Carey
James Gascoyne
James Gascoyne
Sarah Barthe
Sarah Barthel
Flora & Fauna
Flora & Fauna
The Rex Factor
The Rex Factor
  1. Fred says

    The first half of Railbird’s set was middling electronica, but the last couple of songs really took off. I wish them well.

  2. Ned says

    I thought Railbird’s set was amazing! Not sure about that middling electronica comment though..were you at the right place?

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