LIVE: Buke & Gase @ the Spotty Dog Books & Ale, 3/11/12

Review by Colonel David

It was still daylight when I wandered into Hudson’s Spotty Dog, as the bands were dragging their amplifiers in, squeezing past the patrons, to an area basically in the middle of the long corridor that is the bookstore and bar. Earlier in the day it may be a bookstore, but at this time – not yet dark – it was a neighborhood bar under a timeless tin ceiling, with hip skinny bartenders in beat up Converse pulling the beer taps and talking with familiar faces that were ringing around the worn wooden bar.

The evening was a benefit towards a joint venture of the venue and radio station WGXC (community radio in Greene & Columbia counties) to gather money to purchase equipment to provide simulcasts from the Spotty Dog. Folding chairs were brought in to supplement the existing tables and chairs. There is no stage or even lights, and when the house lights are dimmed, the band went dark, too. The PA system is tiny and minimal, but it gets the job done. As in, there wasn’t much, but there was nothing missing.

The first band up, Sticklips, crowded in a tight huddle with waif-like singer Johanna Warren sitting sideways facing the “film/music/theatre” section of books. She sang delicate, carefully crafted songs with grace and gravity, aided and abetted by Eli Walker’s melodic bass lines, and the crowd simply adored her.

Hudson’s Jeremy Kelly was a swirling dervish of pure sound. With his frothy beard and wild hair, Kelly sat on the floor with a mic in front of his face like a snake charmer. He made feedback squeals and noises that sound people usually get paid a lot of money to prevent, but weaved them all into a hypnotic performance piece, strangling sounds and squeezing them through processors, while shaping them with effects into something you could almost hold in your hands. Amazingly, he held the riveted crowd, glued to their seats and watching Kelly twist knobs.

Then the headliners arrived with a few make-shift stage lights and two low-strung hybrid baritone ukuleles that worked in the same manner as guitars, but sounded different enough to be enticing and new. It was Brooklyn’s Buke & Gase, aka Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez. (Why oh why didn’t they call themselves Arone & Aron?)

The two were prone to simultaneously slide from the lower frets to mid-neck, resulting in an intoxicating falling-backwards effect, as well as ping-ponging phrases between the two of them. Dyer sang high but not shrill, with lines like “Everybody here is out to get you” over a blurry, low drone, and the sound was as if there were twice as many people onstage.

The remarkable resurgence of Hudson the past few decades is well documented, and this evening was further proof of that… and of where things are heading. The venue was vibrant and inviting; the musicians inventive, clever and untypical; and you left walking down Warren Street with the distinct feeling that there is indeed a scene happening here, one that has somehow landed smack in the middle of Hudson.

This is not a bad thing.

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