August 2, 2009
I went to see Jack Rose with Bill Nace at BAR in New Haven on Sunday night. I expected to see a lot more people there, but since it's summer and Yale isn't in full swing, there was a pretty small crowd. Those who went were lucky enough to see a damn fine show.
Without a single word, Bill Nace took to the stage and unleashed a sonic fury. Holding his Fender Jaguar on his lap like a lap steel, he quietly prepared turned up his tiny amp and started the onslaught. He began the set with staccato bursts of noise created by a shallow metal bowl over his pickups, and then waves and waves of feedback. Throughout the show Nace's hands moved like lightning across the fretboard, striking notes both above and below the capo, and even blasting directly at his pickups with tiny metal objects. He was using all kinds of things to hammer away at his guitar, including what I think was a comb, but it was too dark and too small to tell. One song had him creating a really nice quavering, shimmering rhythm with what looked like a small drumstick, while punctuating the timing with noise and arrhythmic feedback squonk. Toward the end of the set, some drunk asshole ran up to the stage and yelled something at Nace, but he was quickly handled by Rick and company. Nace loudly finished his set, and with nothing more than a smile and a nod was packed up and offstage. At a set lasting only 20 minutes, I was left wanting way more.
The moment Jack Rose took the stage was surreal. As he started his set, a sort of quiet fell on the audience. Everyone was watching him. He began playing fast, flowing ragtime tunes with both ferocity and grace. His fingers are a blur, and how he manages an alternating bassline that fast is beyond me. The sounds he was able to coax out of just one acoustic guitar and a microphone were astounding - at one point it sounded like he had an entire chorus singing along, but it was just the drone of the top strings. He played a few songs on the 6 string, changing tunings here and there, before moving to a lap steel. He then proceeded to play two songs on lap steel, ending with a slowly building Now That I'm A Man Full Grown II which was mindblowingly executed. All the while, the BAR backdrop lights seemed to change with the music, constantly shifting in and out of deep blues with the slower tunes and stark red when the songs got more intense. I couldn't believe how great Jack Rose was live. Seeing him in person and listening to him on a record really just can't compete. The show completely inspired me, and all told, it was a great night in New Haven.