Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Roots rockers exude enthusiasm onstage

It was a dark and drizzly Monday night when Down the Line took the stage at Schubas, immediately lifting my spirits as they bounced up and down onstage like a bunch of boys playing air guitar while jumping on their beds—except these guys were so musically agile that it’s clear they’ve spent years honing their skills.

Down the Line has been around for some time now, as its members will attest, and they don’t claim to be fresh-faced, though they’re still relatively young. They also don’t claim to be hipsters, and neither does much of their crowd—all are simply there to enjoy a meticulous yet carefree performance.

Monday’s show, the last of Down the Line’s month-long residency at Schubas, included an abundance of older tunes as well as a few songs from their newest album, For All You Break. Though the bulk of the set consisted of crowd-rousing, sometimes country or bluegrass-inspired numbers, the band also mixed it up with a handful of slower, sweeter songs, including “Boy Like Me” and “I Don’t Want to Sing.”

While Dan Myers rocked out center stage, switching between vocals, mandolin, violin and harmonica like a very happy mad man, the other members offered equally compelling performances-- Derek Fawcett wailing tunefully, faithful djembe drum in tow, Dave Rothkopf feeling the groove on bass and Levi Britton often taking the lead with his mellifluous singing voice and guitar.

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” a cover of the Tears for Fears classic, stood out for the way it showcased Down the Line’s ability to breath life into an old hit, allowing the audience to appreciate the appeal of a song that has become cliché in its original form. The band wound up their set on a high note with “Here I Am,” a song every bit as joyfully proclamatory as the title would have you believe. After the crowd cried out for more (“Six more!” yelled the very drunk woman behind me), the band returned with the contemplative “Just the Wind,” followed by the poignant “Give in Again” (a song with the hit-making qualities of an introspective John Mayer tune) and the optimistic “I’ll Stay.” The performance was one of the most exuberant I have seen, and it made a whirlwind pick-me-up to what could have otherwise been a very dreary Monday night. –Cory Robertson