It's easy to get spoiled by shows at the Beacon Theater
or at Madison Square Garden
; you can forget what it's like at a venue where acts are just getting started instead of venues where the biggest rock stars on the planet play. And while one of the perks of being Baeble's Managing Editor is that I get to choose which shows I attend, I like to take the time to stop in at smaller venues to remind myself of one of the many things live music in NYC can be about: seeing bands in their infancy working magic before your very eyes.
I made my way to the Bitter End
-- the Greenwich Village club which helped to serve as the launching pad for more musicians than I'll ever be able to properly articulate (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchel, and Joan Baez to name a few). Before the show, I stopped in the Peculier Pub to have some drinks and talk shop with some industry peers, and then it was time for the ten song set at the Bitter End for New York's own the New Tarot
. Comprised of two sisters, Monika & Karen Walker, as well as David O'Connor, Ryan Ashe, and Dan O'Connor, the New Tarot battled sub-optimal sound mixing from the venerable NYC nightspot and delivered an immediately attention-grabbing set.
With a sound that is equal parts bluesy garage rock, baroque pop, trip-hop, and psychedelia, the Walker sisters and crew have worked to craft a sound that is distinct and all their own. I've been listening to their EP and singles on Spotify today as I write this article and I'm glad I did because it did a much better job of translating the ethereal beauty of Monika's voice which was washed out by the Bitter End's lacking vocal mixing Saturday night. The intricate instrumental arrangements translated fabulously -- and I found myself enchanted by the unexpected grooviness of it all -- but the Bitter End has some serious work to do on the vocal engineering front.
I have total confidence that once the New Tarot has a full-length release under their belts, they'll be filling out bigger venues like Baby's All Right or the Mercury Lounge here in NYC in no time. The sisters have charm to spare -- including a ritual to cleanse bad vibes from the audience halfway through the set -- and their studio recordings show a band with a solid understanding of their unique sound. And as I made my way down Bleecker & Broadway to catch my train back to Brooklyn that night, I remembered how great it is to see bands at that magical moment when they've just crossed the verge of tapping into that ineffable quality known as "something special."