Angels and Kings NYC
28 December 2009
Located in Manhattan’s East Village, Angels and Kings is an unassuming, blink and you’ll miss it bar. The only thing that lets you know where you are is a simple dark green awning. It looks like every other bar. Inside, however, is a different story. It was a peppering of scene kids and hipsters, loud, competing music, and the odd “I’m just here because it’s Pete Wentz’ bar. I hope he shows up tonight!” girl. Add into the mix two national touring bands that are apparently big with the kids these days doing stop over acoustic sets, and it makes for an interesting cross section of humanity. The energy in the room was very hipper than thou. Most people were there to be seen, which wasn’t saying much since the bar was mostly empty. Maybe they were there to hang out with the bands. Who knows? The two bands got up and played rather forgettable acoustic sets. It didn’t take long to wonder why anyone would want to voluntarily be there in the first place since there are so many better bars, and better dive bars at that, in Alphabet City. So..why waste your time being bored surrounded by self absorbed hipsters?
It didn’t take long after the second band stepped off stage for things to start to look up. Around 10pm, the reason most of the rest of us were there walked in the front door. No fanfare, no bells, no whistles, just a man and his guitar, bundled up like an eskimo. After having gotten himself settled, Vinnie Caruana (The Movielife / I Am the Avalanche) took the stage. “Hi. My name is Vinnie and I’m from New York City.” From there, the audience, few but in good voice, was held rapt as he played through “some of the songs from some of the bands that I’ve been in over the years.” Opening with Drinking Song, he made a valiant effort to outsing the crowd, but they were having none of it. Even during Brooklyn Dodgers, a song only formally released via the I am the Avalanche myspace page, the crowd knew every word. A bit taken a back, stating with a chuckle, “Well, maybe I should just give you my guitar and you come up here and sing for me.” He appeared in good spirits the entire evening, joking with the crowd and grinning from ear to ear. His tone turned serious near mid set, however, with the request of Green Eyes. There was a very sad and empty quality to his voice that isn’t usually present. The result was a heartbreakingly beautiful ballad of lost love. He made a concerted effort, it seemed, to take his heart off his sleeve before starting into the next song. Taking a second to regain his wits, he launched into a particularly impassioned rendition of Handgrenade, a particular favourite amongst the Movielife offerings. Another Movielife song, Hey followed, with the crowd once again drowning Vinnie out. Closing out the set was I Am the Avalanche’s version of a drinking song. I Took A Beating always is the highlight of the set. People who didn’t sing at all during the rest of the set suddenly found themselves front and centre, leading the call and response gang vocal section. Blame it on the alcohol, but tonight’s song leaders either started the response too early or too late, prompting fits of laughter from Caruana. “No no no! Ok, you right there. You’re going to be the leader and I’m going to point to you when it’s your turn to start. Ok. Get ready. GET READY! OK NOW GO!”
At the end of the set, most of the scenesters and hipsters had long since gone, leaving the twenty or so of us there to see Vinnie play and Caruana himself. Perhaps most impressive, Vinnie took a second to thank each and every one of us personally for coming out. The moment he stepped off stage to mingle, he stopped being “that one guy from those two really awesome bands” to just being Vinnie, a kid from Long Island. His demeanour changed completely and he reverted back to wearing his heart on his sleeve. The twenty five minutes or so before last call turned into an impromptu question and answer session. He asked as many questions of us as we did of him. “Wait. You mean to tell me that you flew out here a day early from California just to make this show?! That’s just..that’s amazing. I’m truly touched. Thank you.” Who knows, maybe if those two bands from earlier had bothered to stick around, they could have learned something about humility, grace, class, and talent.
While catching Caruana in an acoustic setting, or in a musical setting at the moment, is an experience that is sadly few and far between, if he comes around your area, make it a point to go out of your way and see him play. I can personally guarantee you that he will out sing and play with more heart than any of the bands that he chooses to tour with.
To Be Dead and In Love
I Took a Beating