Alice Austin, Audrey Ryan, Big Tree At The Monkey House Saturday September 19, 2009

Words by Tim Lewis.

The room was remarkably empty for a Saturday night at the Monkey House. Audrey Ryan got a big write up in 7 Days and Alice usually brings along a crowd. It was a bit odd but I just decided to go with it. I settled in with a drink and not long after 9 Alice Austin took the stage with just an acoustic guitar. She mentioned that we were the people who did not go to her sister’s birthday party and that she would play songs from all parts of her career and off we went.

Whereas last time she brought the full band and rocked the place to the core, this show stripped the songs bare and let them shine in simplicity. Old songs were placed next to new ones and the difference showed both how much she has grown as a songwriter and showed how great of a start she got.

New songs such as Never Cry Halo, Graveyard Before Dark, and Sharp Side of the Knife growled and roared and are quickly becoming some of my favorites. Wall to Wall from the Lavas album sounded sweet and was brought over the top when her voice warmed up the middle section. I’d Hate to be Me from the Queen Tangerine album shimmered with melodic excellence and was balanced by the melancholy lyric. Same Stars reached back to Zola Turn days for an achingly poignant plea for the return of a lover.

At one point she started playing something that I recognized but couldn’t pin down. As she headed to the chorus my body began to recognize Tastes Like Nothing. As the song progressed, memory was viscerally exuded, and I couldn’t help singing it word for word. It had been ages since I heard that song, but I’ve heard it so many times in the past it’s pretty imprinted at this point. What a great song!

She ended the night with another new one, Laissez Faire. Its hooks draw you in and its grooves grab you. Alice has been writing and playing great sons for years and Saturday was the perfect showcase for how talented she really is. It was a great show and I only hope she comes back again and again.

Next up Audrey Ryan took the stage. I was a bit tired and not sure if I was up for staying but decided to give it a try. Much like last time she did a lot of looping and mostly played percussion. Her songs were cool though none really stood out. She played well with lots of attitude and the small crowd was pretty into the show. At times her voice really shone and was a beautiful thing to be in the presence of. It was a bit of effort but I’m glad I stayed.

During the break I chatted with Sean a bit. He was lamenting the turnout. It’s funny how hard it is to get people to come out and see local music. There is so much real talent in this town that is not getting it’s due. Maybe someday?

I managed to make it until Big Tree took the stage. They are a quintet from NYC and I knew nothing about them. Their first song was kind of folky and I wasn’t sure how long I was going to make it. The song folded into another and by the end they brought the rock and roll. I was quite impressed!

I noticed at various times elements of Yes, the Dead and Zappa but they never sounded like anyone except themselves. In some ways they reminded me of Stars. The played elegant lush songs with an indie drive. They were excellent and are on my list to check out further.

What a wonderful night it was. Three quality bands for $5. Boy did I get my money’s worth!

This post was originally published by Tim Lewis at his personal blog,