Last weekend I attended the Ani DiFranco concert here in Toronto. I had been excited for months and even waited for the exact moment tickets went on sale to grab a pair. Once we were seated, I felt a nervous excitement, as if I was the one about to perform. She’s my favourite musician; her writing is poetic and her style of play is well executed and unique. I had seen her before in concert, so I knew it was going to be a great show. And it was brilliant.
However, I wasn’t prepared for the opening act. Pearl and the Beard hail from Brooklyn, NY and comprise of three members. They use at least twice as many instruments as members. On their website, their bio opens with, “Pearl and the Beard is three voices, one cello, one guitar, one glockenspiel, one melodica, several drums, one accordion, ninety-six teeth, and one soul.” One soul perhaps, but it’s a big, deep soul.
Their performance blew me away (and judging by the crowd’s reaction, I wasn’t the only one blown away.) I even googled them during intermission. They're a band that needs to be experienced live; their music is enhanced with stomping, clapping and even a kazoo.
The following day, I went online and purchased their CD ‘Killing the Darlings.’ It arrived in the mail yesterday and I put it on a bit louder than I usually do for music. I have a 3 year old and normally she doesn’t like anything loud and she seems picky with music (I often hear, “No, put real music on”.) Pearl and the Beard passed her test, she started bobbing and within a minute she got up and started dancing. I asked her if she liked this music and she responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
The songs are good mix of soulful and fun, a few being both! ‘Reverend’, ‘Sweetness’, ‘Douglas, Douglass’, and ‘Jasper Christmas’ are more upbeat and fun to dance around to. ‘The Lament of Coronado Brown’ and ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ are deep, classic soul songs.
I’m not sure if I have a favourite song yet, but I’m really feeling ‘Hot Volcano’ right now. It has a bit of a haunting sound, but it’s incredibly…sexy. I almost never use the word ‘sexy’, it’s over-used and people seem to think trashy is sexy. ‘Hot Volcano’ is anything but trashy, it’s a sultry, classy sexy. In my books, it’s how sexy is supposed to be.
Here’s a paragraph from their website bio that speaks volumes about Pearl and the Beard:
“Pearl and the Beard’s live show is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. The band captivates their audience from first note to last, leaving fans and press alike completely engrossed in the world they’ve created with their soaring and sensual songs. From subway platform to park to field to brightly lit venue stage, Pearl and the Beard take over whatever space they occupy, including the people occupying it with them, prompting The Wall Street Journal to comment “…as Pearl and the Beard joyfully belted… to a growing crowd on the [subway] platform… commuters missed their trains to stay and listen, unsure what was happening—only that it was a New York moment not to be missed.”
The only thing that I have to speak out against is the fact the album is only 10 songs long, totalling a mere 32 minutes. But they make up for it; the album includes the knitting pattern for their 3-person sweater featured in the video for ‘Prodigal Daughter’ and shown on the albums cover, which was created by member Jocelyn Mackenzie. For a knit nut like myself, I thought that was a great bonus.
Take a listen and if you enjoy them half as much, spread the word – people need to know about them. They are currently touring so catch them live. They’ll be hitting The Drake here in Toronto on May 10th. After that, they head back to the US, stopping in Cleveland next. You can see their travel schedule here.
Here's them performing, 'Hot Volcano':
The video for 'The Lament of Coronado Brown':