Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds Give Madison Square Park a Free Show to Remember

One of the primary reasons I've stuck around New York for so long is the seemingly endless amount of free concerts.  While some artists are content with providing a little background music for picnickers, some go that extra mile to satisfy their longtime fans as well.  Last night in Madison Square Park, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds proved they have no interest in only being paired with hummus, grapes, and prosciutto; they exist to make you shake your ass.

I took a spot on the ground near the soundboard, surrounded by couples on blankets.  Arleigh "Sister Sparrow" Kincheloe, dressed entirely in white, bounced out onto the stage to the intro of "The Long Way."  I realized quickly that I was too far away.  The mix was only coming out of the speakers framing the stage, so the h
orns sounded thin.  I relocated to the standing section to the right of the stage, discovering that part of the reason for this was the absence of trombonist Ryan Snow.  I overcame my longing for trombone as soon as the Dirty Birds plunged into their second tune, a cover of "The Way You Make Me Feel" that sounded like the love child of MJ and Dr. Funkenstein.  Josh Myers was absolutely murdering it on the bass, and they even spiced it up with a pinch of "Kashmir."  Following a powerful "Freight Train," Arleigh encouraged the audience to come forward.  "I feel like you're afraid to get a little closer to the Dirty Birds.  They don't smell too bad," she confessed.  That's all it took for the crowd to sweep in like pigeons spotting breadcrumbs, nodding their heads to each "uh-huh" in "Don't Be Jealous."   "This is a song I wrote for my best friend.  It's kind of about troublemakers in your life," announced Arleigh before the groovy new summer track, "Prison Cells."  "Disappear," another fresh tune, came next, allowing for some raspy riffing by Kincheloe at its end.  Sister Sparrow-staple "Make It Rain" spotlighted an extended saxophone solo from Brian Graham, with Arleigh shaking a tambourine and giving a look to the crowd that she was also genuinely impressed by his sax skills.  The last Sister Sparrow show I'd been to was their Zeppelin IV cover concert, and a whole lotta Led must've rubbed off on new number "Catch Me If You Can," with Arleigh giving off serious '70s rocker vibes over the chunky blues of the Birds.  Myers let another fantastic bass bomb drop to kick off the final ditty, "Boogie Man."

Less than a minute after their departure, Arleigh ran back onto the stage and let out a guttural scream into the microphone.  Sister Sparrow then turned her tail to the crowd for a photo op.  "You ready, boys?" she said after the Kodak moment, gathering her flock for the encore.  The band tore into their "Bulls on Parade/Rock & Roll" mashup to finish it out, with Jackson Kincheloe serving up a positively wicked harmonica solo.

Requests for a podcast interview have been made, so look out for that later this year.  SSDB will return to NYC for a two-night stand at Bowery Ballroom the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Arleigh's advice?  "Come on out. Work off that turkey."

SISTER SPARROW & THE DIRTY BIRDS - 08.06.14 - MADISON SQUARE PARK (1 hour, 17 minutes)

The Long Way / Sugar > The Way You Make Me Feel > Kashmir (tease) > The Way You Make Me Feel / We Need a Love / Freight Train / Don't Be Jealous / Prison Cells / Disappear / Borderline / Make It Rain / My House / Horn Section Solo > Crawdaddies / Catch Me If You Can / Boogie Man

Bulls on Parade/Rock & Roll

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