Have you heard enough of me geeking out about Leif Vollebekk like a giddy fanboy yet? After posting a Song of the Day from Vollebekk back in December and letting him kick off the first Album of the Month segment in March, there was only logical step forward: the live performance. Luckily for me, Vollebekk was playing right down the road at Cambridge’s Restaurant and Nightclub “The Middle East” for a mere $15. Score.
As a first-timer at the venue, I quickly realized that there’s no better way to define it than an intimate hole in the wall. Artists were grinning as they literally bumped into each other in stage, while people were ordering a fresh seasonal batch of Sam Summer Ale at a bar no more than 15 feet away from the acts. In the words of my comrade who suggested we attend the concert in the first place, “Last time I was at The Middle East to see Pinegrove, I ended up taking a piss at the urinal next to the drummer and talking to him about our mutual love for the opening act.” Vollebekk’s opener Dietrich Strause was a testament to everything that made this venue so special, as the very talented young folk singer was a Cambridge native himself, working at a local Spice shop down the road while he wasn’t recording/touring. The guitarist rocked a mean Canadian tuxedo (aka denim shirt & pants) as if style were his mistress, while his standing bassist was something to behold. The man walked onto GA floor a half hour before the show started and, god damn, you couldn’t draw a more perfect curlicue mustache if you tried. We briefly joked about the man’s incredible style, but as more time passed and Strause eventually came up on stage, it took a minute or two for my friend and I to simultaneously realize, “Oh my god, that’s the guy…the mustache guy is in the bassist!”
Now for those that have read my previous Leif Vollebekk posts and listened to his music, you would likely expect the rest of the show to be incredibly mellow to match his assumed poise. In a sense you’d be right, but I don’t know that I’ve ever witnessed a more talkative and smiley comedian-esque musical artist perform in my life. Vollebekk kicked off the concert with a smirk and a blunt statement, saying “All my songs are kind of slow. I hope that’s okay. I just don’t really like fast songs, so I didn’t make any.” The crowd stood unmoved with a stone-faced reaction that silently proclaimed that they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t know that. After a couple songs however, it became apparent that their was an DJ blasting music in the venue below (The Middle East has separate upstairs and downstairs venues), which put a strange twist onto Some of Vollebekk’s slowest songs. Vollebekk was quick to made light of the situation however, saying “This reminds me of the guy that woke me up at 2AM last week because he was bumping the new Kendrick Lamar album at a stoplight outside my apartment. I couldn’t really get mad at him though, because was was he gonna do, not bump Kendrick? Of course not.” The crowd was taken back by Vollebekk’s hilarity, but he wasn’t finished. After at least 3 or 4 songs he made fantastic jokes in regards to the downstairs venue’s musical energy, with one liners like, “This is perfect, the beat downstairs actually follows the same exact bassline as our next song” and “I wonder if the guy downstairs is as good as our bassist…oh wait, he’s not a bassist, he’s cheating, I forgot.”
All in all, Vollebekk and Strause both respectively brought much needed thoughtfulness, emotion, and light-hearted entertainment to a crowd that reflected incredible appreciation to be able to experience their blooming abilities within an extremely cozy environment. Below is a playlist featuring a sample of Dietrich Strause’s music, along with Vollebekk’s full set in order excluding one new unidentifiable song.