October’s first weekend was a frantic one for Near Northeast. On Saturday, the band performed at Porchfest in Adams Morgan, then loaded up their gear for a quick trip to Norfolk, Virginia, for a secret SoFar show. Then it was back up to the District to support headliner Sam Amidon at the Songbyrd Music House Sunday.
The quartet, named for the D.C. neighborhood where it originated, takes its work and art seriously: relentlessly performing whenever and wherever a gig is to be had.
Opening with the instrumental “Cenote” from the first album Curios, NNE on Sunday played a nearly hour long set of melodies that span influences from Americana to folk, rock to jazz. The set featured several tunes from the new album released this past summer, True Mirror, including “Bottomfeeder” which draws on eastern European influences and features a complex intertwining of vocals, guitar, bass, and violin, bolstered by Antonio Skarica’s intricate percussion.
It was soon followed by one of NNE’s most beautiful songs: “Quintana” is songwriting at its finest. Lyrically, there is just enough ambiguity to allow the listener’s own interpretation but not so much that one mistakes the optimism of the “on the way home” refrain. Musically, the song builds from lazy guitar and violin interplay to a lively percussive pop melody driven by guitarist Avy Mallik’s intricate finger picking and Kelly Servick’s violin floating serenely above the melody.
Listen to True Mirror, which contains the song “Quintana” and others, by Near Northeast on Bandcamp:
As the evening progressed, we were treated to a selection of NNE’s best live tunes (e.g., “Revival,” “Temeculah,” “Under the Pines”) from the two albums. But it was on the set closer “Missed America” where I realized how accomplished and chameleon-like this band can be. Beginning with a lone plucked violin note, Kelly’s melancholy vocals intone, “In pictures I have seen, in letters on the screen, the past or else a dream.”
Rather than dwelling on the serene, though, Avy’s guitar establishes a foreboding melody that, along with Austin Blanton’s ominous stand-up bass line, gradually builds to a drum thrashing, Zeppelin-like climax. Near Northeast does heavy metal, too.
Songbyrd Music House, in Adams Morgan, is one of a growing number of local rooms where one can experience quality live music, both local and national touring acts. On this night if Near Northeast’s members were road fatigued from their heavy weekend schedule, we didn’t see, or hear, it. One can find NNE music, videos and more on Facebook.
Here are some pictures of Near Northeast performing at Songbyrd Music House on Oct. 8, 2017. All photos copyright and courtesy of Mark D. Caicedo.