Show Review: Jay Nash with Joey Ryan & Kenneth Pattengale at Cafe du Nord, 3/27/2011

by Stacy Scales on March 29, 2011

The last time I saw Jay Nash live was August of 2009. Truth be told, I was there to see Tony Lucca, and I’d never heard of Jay Nash (or Matt Duke) before! Fast forward to going on two years later, and I’m hooked on this guy’s voice. Since then, the trio has formed the occasional band TFDI, released an EP, and as yet evaded the Bay Area (as a band, anyway). So as you might imagine, I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me from getting to the Cafe du Nord to see Jay on Sunday night, even if he was without his cohorts! Lucky for me, opening act Milk Carton Kids helped to fill any imaginary void.

Since the last time I saw Joey Ryan at this very same venue, less than two months ago, he’s joined forces with Kenneth Pattengale to form a duo called the Milk Carton Kids.  Though I was unfamiliar with Kenneth’s music until last night, it seems that the two are performing songs either had previously written/recorded with an added richness of multiple guitars and a great harmony.  The night began the with a promise to play louder than the radio we could hear from the kitchen playing “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” (presumably for the dishwasher). The first tune was a song called “Permanent,” the first track of the duo’s new album, Retrospect. Joey asked the crowd, “what do you guys wanna hear?” and made a mental note of the responses, promising to get to them all during the course of the set (before launching into one of his own choosing). Crowd favorite “Queen Jane” came next, a song about leaving rainy England, which prompted Joey to admit that he knew a song about hating the rain would go over well on a rainy day in San Francisco.

When they began “Girls, Gather Round,” I couldn’t resist comparing Kenneth’s voice to Bob Dylan’s when he was young. These guys have a great thing going onstage. Both are quite soft-spoken, yet are exceptionally witty with their one-liners. At one point, Kenneth asked, “why are they laughing, Joey?”

“I think it’s the way we look.”

“It’s ok. We’re entertainers. We’re entertaining them.”

After “As it Must Be,” Joey told us the story of “Charlie,” a requested song Kenneth wrote for his as-yet-unborn (not to mention not yet conceived) daughter. Moreover, Charlie doesn’t yet have a mom. The lyrics say, in fact, that Kenneth still has to find Charlie a nice mama. This one definitely had every girl in the crowd “awww”-ing. It seems to me that writing/performing said song may be a great way, in fact, to find this mama he’s looking for.

The Kids finished up their set with two more requested tunes, “California” and “Rock & Roll ‘Er,” and bid the audience goodnight with promises of their imminent return (5/3/11 at the Independent with Joe Purdy, to be exact). We were, however, still treated to several more cameo appearances by both throughout the night’s headlining performance.

Jay Nash’s new album, Diamonds and Blood, is not about slavery – he promises. What it is about, however, is finding someone that you want to “marry and make babies with.” (Thanks for clearing that up, Jay.) The album gets its name from the lyrics of the first song he performed, album opener “Til I Get Through.” After “Shake it All Off,” Joey Ryan joined him to harmonize for “Hang Around,” and then turned to leave the stage, but Jay insisted he stay for another – this time a rock song about ghosts. Though Joey worried about “de-rock-ifying” the song, Jay offered him a little whiskey and together they sang “Lights Come.”

After Jay sang “Us Against the World” on his own, he was joined this time by Kenneth (and eventually Joey again, as well, for harmony on the chorus). Jay is a California native who’s recently relocated to Vermont. He lamented winters in his new home as he began the now-bittersweet “Golden State Goodnight” and then promised to take a break from the “sad bastard music.”

Instead, he announced that he’d like to sing about treachery and scandal, and advised any aspiring songwriters in the audience to “write about shit you want to happen. Write about gold-plated yachts and supermodels.” The song with all the lead-in was called “River,” which led to the sad but hopeful (crowd-requested) “Everything.” As Jay began to play from The Things You Think You Need (or as he also refers to it, “the album that silenced my father,” as seeing it on a shelf in a local store allowed his father to finally begin to accept that his son might be doing something real with his musical ambitions), he began with “Easy,” into a song about a girl he says he dated for seven years (but who never dated him back), “Wayfarer.”

With one more appearance from Kenneth and Joey, “Sweet Talkin’ Liar” had a great full sound. Solo, Jay followed it up with a true story born in Lander, Wy (at the Lander Bar, no less), “Oogly Boogly” (another request). “Unshakable,” he says, is a song about the electricity between humans. He intended to end on this song, but as he discovered he couldn’t get into of the green room, a three-song impromptu encore immediately commenced, consisting of “Baby Tornado” (the last request), “Over You” (a song about a day he missed his train, bought a guitar he couldn’t afford, and became the “goofy American in Paris”), and “Forgive Me.”

Jay Nash is one of those musicians that sounds better live than he does recorded. I enjoy listening to his albums, but I for one don’t believe they hold a candle to his live sound. Lucky for those who feel as I do, he and newly-reunited band TFDI will be releasing an album in July and finally returning to San Francisco in August to support it. I’ll see you there!

Stacy Scales

California native. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast.

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