We love to blog about the shows, films, music, tv, books and even the occasional art exhibit we see. In the days of social distancing precautions, artists are moving their works to streaming platforms and Zub is going there with them.
I have written about the scrappy two-person band Sirsy, from upstate New York before at (tinyurl.com/zubsirsy). Husband and wife duo Rich Libutti and Melanie Krahmer were scheduled to play in Asheville, NC this night, but since their gigs have been cancelled due to the pandemic, they decided to stage three online shows from their house. The show on Thursday featured Sirsy playing their Coming Into Frame record in order. Saturday’s show had the band playing their Revolution record in order, and Tuesday featured an on-the-couch acoustic performance.
Thursday’s show came from the band’s basement ‘Studio’ where they were set up pretty much like when they play live. Rich playing his battered Rickenbacker 330 through a raft of pedals, and Mel playing drums, with both of them triggering bass and other instruments (Mel with her drumsticks, Rich with his feet). Mel does the singing and she is known for her powerhouse vocals.
On their YouTube channel, the broadcast was great looking (lots of bandwidth, unlike the heartfelt but sometimes glitchy Robyn Hitchcock/ Emma Swift benefit show reviewed at tinyurl.com/zubregem), and the sound was extremely good. These two are tech savvy and know what they are doing.There was no ticket price although donations were accepted for the band, and the broadcast started with over 200 watching and went as high as 350 people.
Mel was a little sick with a scratchy throat but she sang beautifully, killing it on the opener ‘Cannonball,’ which ended with Rich exclaiming “that was awesome!” ‘Lionheart,’ a song Mel described as being about “finding courage in this life,” was extremely tight. It’s obvious the band has been on tour all year. Sirsy plays a blend of earnest pop that always reminds me a bit of the pop catchiness of They Might Be Giants without the bizarre elements and snark. ‘Picture’ had a very cool REM-ish intro, while ‘Killer’ had a darker vibe than most of their upbeat stuff. ‘Red Letter Day’ had a neat R & B feel with a great solo from Rich and some judicious use of the Whammy pedal (a guitar effect that provides higher notes in the scale you are playing).
When they played ‘Gold,’ Rich switched to bass guitar and Mel moved forward to a keyboard. This was a very pretty ballad that I had never seen them play this way before. Mel introduced ‘Lot Of Love’ with a great story about playing at a local elementary school. When she told the kids they were doing a love song they got the typical “ew...gross” reply from the kids. It’s a happy song and very positive, and featured Rich mugging at the camera. Mel introduced ‘She’s Coming Apart’ as “autobiographical,” and it also features Mel whistling! These two are very earnest and genuine, and fun. Lots of fun. This show was a real triumph.
Saturday’s show featured the band playing their Revolution record in order. This 2007 release showcases some of Sirsy’s strongest songs. The set up was basically the same, from their basement studio. They seemed to have a few more set up issues tonight, and started up with about 160 watching. Melanie had to call her mom before they began to make sure she was watching. She did and assured us “Mom’s On.” Rich showed off a SECOND camera that he controlled with a footswitch, and they launched into ‘Revolution,’ one of their tougher, catchier songs that also featured Mel playing flute (!). They unfortunately ran into sound issues with the second camera, as switching to it screwed up the sound (I’m guessing the camera microphone was on).
There was a cardboard Star Wars stormtrooper in the background wearing the new Sirsy t-shirt. They mentioned they had lots of t-shirts made for the West Coast tour they were supposed to be on. Rich took some time and they got the audio on the second camera fixed. ‘Sorry Me’ is one of their prettier and more wistful songs. ‘Leftover Girl’ was a standout, featuring Rich’s picked guitar figure and Mel’s powerhouse vocal. They were quickly back in the swing after the tech issues. Rich switched guitars for a heavy version of ‘Crazy,’ a bit of a metal-edged stomper, and they stuck a few lines of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ in the middle, with some cool soloing from Rich. After the song, Mel sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to a fan. Next up was ‘Waiting For Rain,’ a very pretty and catchy song with a heavier bridge.
‘Oh Billy’ has a spooky guitar figure and again reminds me of They Might Be Giants, at this point the show had almost 350 viewers, and as they rocked it out, I was having some internet streaming issues. Sirsy burned it down with the torchy ‘Still,’ a true showcase for Melanie’s amazing vocals. The story of Melanie’s grandmother, ‘Mary Concetta,’ featured her on melodica, and on ‘Mercury’ she played the flute again. Rich played a nice keyboard intro on the last song, ‘Fireflies.’ Again, these two provided lots of fun and positive energy. They really feel like your friends, the music is catchy and interesting, and the talent they have is impressive.
Tuesday’s show was billed as an ‘On The Couch’ acoustic show. Turns out the couch wasn’t conducive to playing music so the duo set up on stools in front of the couch. Melanie and Rich seemed a little more nervous about this performance, but the twelve songs they played were great arrangements with a few surprises. They had the second camera working fine, the stream was good, again the sound excellent. They did have an issue with the camera shaking with foot tapping, but what are you going to do? Even Sirsy finds their tunes irresistible. As usual, almost every song was a showcase for Melanie’s vocals, starting with ‘Goner.’ On ‘Soul Sucker’ the mix of a clever acoustic riff with Melanie’s soulful voice and flute was wonderful.
At this point there were about 261 viewers, very active on the comment board, lots of diehard Sirsy fans. ‘Hurricane’ from their first record, was fun and the scat singing at the end wasn’t even embarrassing. Mel and Rich gave away a T-Shirt, then played a pretty version of ‘Leftover Girl,’ The version of ‘Thieves’ from their Sketches and Ghosts EP was wonderful, a great chord progression, cool (!) kazoo part, and hand claps. Rich switched to bass guitar for an astounding version of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good.’ Mel burned this one down.
They did a hilarious version of ‘Try,’ with ‘It Takes Two’ by Rob Bass in the middle, Mel OG rapping “get away from me/ if you’re contagious.” Sirsy wrapped it up with ‘Cannonball,’ one of their strongest tunes, and a wicked version of The Beatles’ ‘Oh, Darling!” Mel and Rich, as I’ve said before, are so genuine and honest with their music, they feel like your good friends. They are a remarkable little band and these three nights cheered me up immensely. Thanks Sirsy!
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