The Feelies | Battery Park | 7.04.2008

As nearly every article published last week surrounding The Feelies reunion, the band were somewhat infamous for, in their early days, mainly playing shows on national holidays so it seemed especially fitting to be seeing them on the 4th of July.

Reports from their warm-up shows at Maxwell’s early in the week had been fairly glowing so I figured the show would be good but I also took it with a grain of salt. Anyone going to one of those Maxwell’s shows was a superfan and that (and nostalgia) might be clouding their judgment a little. And maybe just a little nostalgia affected me as well, but after the show I can safely say still got it.

It took a few songs to get warmed up and didn’t really find their groove till four songs in — The Good Earth nugget “Let’s Go” — but once they did there was no nostalgia needed, the songs and musicianship took over. In particular, Glenn Mercer is still a shit-hot guitarist and the solos on “Away” and “Slipping Into Something” in particular really smoked. The whole band sounded great. And unlike some bands who take a more gentle approach to material from when they were a lot younger, the tempos on “Away,” “Crazy Rhythms” and “Fa Ce La” remained at their proper breakneck pace.

The Maxwell’s shows had all been nearly two hour affairs so the truncated Battery Park set was just that, though we did get an encore. I coulda done with a couple more from 1991’s Time for a Witness (we only got “Doin’ it Again”) but no real complaints. They also played two new numbers, one of which (Time is Right) was really good, and an ace rendition of Wire’s oft-covered “Outdoor Miner.” Maybe they’ll be back for Labor Day. One can hope.

SETLIST: on the roof | high road | | nobody knows (new song) | let’s go | higher ground | away | time is right (new song) | slipping into something | doin’ it again | raised eyebrows | crazy rhythms | ENCORE: outdoor miner | fa ci la

MP3: The Feelies – Slipping Into Something

NYC Taper, god bless him, has recordings of the entire Battery Park show and the second set from their July 1 Maxwell’s show (which is a board recording… or a mix of board and mid-audience, not sure I fully understand what a “Matrix” recording is but it sounds great.)

And I shot video of “Slipping Into Something” which is a little shaky as I was using a bit of my camera’s digital zoom, which is very hard to hold steady:

Actually, there’s a lot of YouTube footage of the Battery park show out there… enjoy!

Curiosity Abounds: A Feelies Primer

Reading John Pareles’ article in the Times about The Feelies reunion shows this week (which says pretty much everything I would’ve said, but better and with quotes) I was a bit shocked to learn that their entire catalog is out of print. I’m actually not surprised about their 1986 comeback album, The Good Earth, which was on Twin Tone and has never seen much of a CD release (my copy, which I bought at Tower Records sometime in the ’90s, is licensed from some company called Suite Beat Music) but I am surprised about the three others — all of which got released (or reissued, in Crazy Rhythm‘s case) by A&M.

I like all their albums for different reasons: the frenetic energy of the well-named Crazy Rhythms with it’s super-clean guitar sound (the band plugged directly into the board… no miked amps); the folky, laid back Good Earth (produced by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck); Only Life, probably the most overtly Velvets-y album, their A&M debut which was also my real introduction to the band; and Time for a Witness which is frenetic and rocking and maybe the best thing they did.

Wariness over reunion shows kept me from buying a ticket to one of the Maxwell’s shows but I’m very excited about the 4th of July Battery Park show so kindly put on by the River to River Festival folks. If you are too but don’t have any of the Feelies records (or are really going to see Sonic Youth but would like to know more about the awesome opener) here’s a two-song-per-record career overview. I wouldn’t call it a definitive best-of, but it’s eight good ones for sure.

MP3: The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness

MP3: Original Love

MP3: On the Roof

MP3: The High Road

MP3: Too Far Gone

: Away

MP3: Sooner Or Later

MP3: Doin’ It Again

For more on the Feelies, the Trouser Press entry on the band is pretty informative. The best blog review I’ve read of their Maxwell’s shows has been the one by drummer Stanley Demeski’s daughter.