After spending the summer as a duo specializing in fuzzed-out ambient/acoustic drone suites performed on dozens of prepared synthesizers, Native America‘s Saturday night return to the stage as a three-piece rock outfit did nothing if not show the versatility of lead singer and renaissance man Ross Farbe’s hardly-can-be-considered-a-side-project-anymore side project. What started as a one-man experiment in field recording and space-folk during downtime from his gig as Sun Hotel’s multi-instrumentalist and home-studio engineer emerged this weekend as a drum-tight psychedelic power-pop machine, knocking out a bouncy set of dream-like rippers custom-tailored for the challenging room and rambunctious crowd that greeted them on the second floor of The Blue Nile.
With the recent improvements to the Maison Penthouse, the Blue Nile Balcony Room is now arguably the most sonically unforgiving venue in the greater New Orleans area, and every member of the rowdy mass assembled there on Saturday – including the still well-dressed spillover from the evening’s White Linen Night festivities – appeared to be gloriously over-served and on his or her worst behavior by the time Native America took the stage. But with bassist John St. Cyr back on a Rickenbacker and moonlighting New Grass Country Club drummer Ray Micarelli back on the full kit, the oddly-shaped and asymmetrically laid-out brick room added a natural layer of cool reverb to the bright low end and sharp percussion already emphatically at the forefront of the mix; and the exuberant crowd bounded around with every blissful timing shift.
In short, it was the perfect showcase for the most recent incarnation of Native America’s constantly evolving musical personality, where a slew of new compositions joined souped-up arrangements from every stage of the band’s short but diverse history. “Just Add Water” (from the May’s Old Flame/New Squeeze EP) and “Rubberjuice Man” (from Native America’s 2010 debut Dancing About Architecture) were as punchy as the rollicking full-band standard “Christ Alrighty”, and the show put Farbes’s impressive ability to effortlessly jump back and forth between understated behind-the-scenes artist and bona fide rock n’ roll frontman into sharp focus.
editors note: this photo is literally the only pertinent picture we took before shit got weird