Review and photos by Tara Pham
(click to enlarge photos)
Friday night saw the release of Water Liars’ much anticipated Phantom Limb at Off Broadway. Opening for the slow alt-country duo were Fred Friction and Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost.
At roughly 9:15 with a mostly empty venue, Fred Friction took the stage. Clad in a white-on-white tie and shirt tucked into jeans on a skinny frame, Fred Friction seemed fittingly drunk to deliver his sad Western ballads, mostly about – you guessed it – scorned love and cheap sex. A few Stag bottles, lyrics forgotten, and song mistarts later, Fred Friction had established an audience split equally between charmed and bored. Fred Friction’s classic country songwriting became overshadowed by a likeness to the drunken depression of a truck stop open mic, seeming at once laughably entertaining and uncomfortably authentic.
By the time that Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost was setting up, the Off Broadway crowd had filled out a bit more. A five-piece, including (of course) St. Louisan-to-the-bone and Bob’s Scratchy Records KDHX DJ Bob Reuter and Rum Drum Ramblers’ Mat Wilson, BRAG (fitting acronym?) exudes cool. The guys pull off sunglasses, cuffed jeans, dreadlocks, and old school hats – that is, paperboy hats and fedoras. BRAG achieves that brand of rock ‘n’ roll that you and your parents want to dance to; so, it didn’t take long for swing dancers to hit the dance floor. While Reuter belts a clear, melodic vox with rough edges in all the right places, his bandmates provide those choral echoes and spectacular instrumental solos that remind you what makes rock ‘n’ roll rock. Their set finished with a roar of cheers and whoops from a plenty lubricated audience.
After a teasing soundcheck from members Justin Kinkel-Schuster and Andrew Bryant, Water Liars began on the same feedback-laced, almost guttural guitar and drum blasts that kick off album Phantom Limb, on track “$100.” From that point on, the show was pure, creating that sense of connectedness between people that make these alt-country ballads so resonant. Much like he did in Theodore, Kinkel-Schuster performed a gut-wrenching, raw set that recordings can hint at but rarely capture.
Water Liars performed “Dog Eaten” and “Low & Long” to a dead silent, totally captivated audience. Through some of the harder, faster tracks like “Short Hair” and a cover of Hasil Adkins’ “Moon Over Madison,” the band hit every note and earned new fan after new fan.
The partnership between Kinkel-Schuster and Bryant is palpable. K-S has clearly found a platform that showcases his superb songwriting and haunting vocals. Quite frankly, he is demonstrating a skill that was always apparent with Theodore – but with Water Liars, it is not diluted by other members (who were powerful in their own right). K-S doesn’t need to share the stage with additional guitarists, bassists, horns, what have you. That said, there is a perfect balance with Bryant. Even at the back of the stage soaked in an anonymizing red light, Bryant commands a presence by way of his total passion for the songs. His committed snare and tom bangs punctuated graceful backing vocals and recurring grimaces wrought with the truth embedded in these songs. As they embark on a midwestern/southern tour, it’s safe to say that Water Liars will propel the national reputation of St. Louis music forward.
See it for yourself, when Water Liars plays an in-store at Vintage Vinyl on February 28th, at 6pm. The band will also be recording a Daytrotter Session on March 2nd, with a publication date TBA.
This entry was written by Live, New Music, Photo Gallery, Review and tagged album release, andrew bryant, Bob Reuter, Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost, Fred Friction, justin kinkel-schuster, KDHX, Off Broadway, Phantom Limb, Vintage Vinyl, water liars. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink., posted on February 26, 2012 at 8:30 pm, filed under