My first taste of the oh-so-sweet melancholy of The Weepies came courtesy of music recommendation site Last.fm. I had launched a station based on household — and Popdose — favorites The Guggenheim Grotto during a dinner party with friends; when the song “Antarctica” came on it was love at first listen. Naturally, I rushed to share my discovery with Jason Hare, knowing that he would love them just as much as I did. Already a fan, he hipped me to the band’s history and pointed me to their earlier release Say I Am You.
With the release of this year’s remarkable Be My Thrill, I was already chomping at the bit for my opportunity to see the group live; the new record only reaffirmed that desire. The delicate mix of honeyed and salty love songs and downright sun-kissed folk-pop anthems, delivered earnestly by the husband and wife duo, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, was the perfect accompaniment to summer’s final bow. So when Mr. Hare alerted me to the band’s November tour stop, it was on.
I have to take a moment to mention the venue. The Hiro Ballroom, located in Chelsea, is possibly one of the oddest spots to feature singer/songwriters. Built below a trendy hotel, the equally-trendy large room is decked out in Asian-inspired decor and looks more like the set of one of Quentin Tarantino’s films than concert hall. I won’t lie, I half expected ninjas to drop from the ceiling at any point, but I digress.
I arrived mid-way through opener Greg Tannen’s set, which is a shame as I really enjoyed the few tunes that I was able to catch. Joined on stage by bassist Tim Luntzel and keyboardist Andrew Sherman (who also provided harmony vocals) Tannen connected with the audience, quipping that his friends gave him grief for the fact that his songs were all of the sad bastard variety before launching into another song about a broken heart. Before leaving the stage, he brought up his brother and sister-in-law, who just happened to be Steve and Deb, or The Weepies, for a family-style rendition of “Vegas Baby,” which Greg co-wrote.
Following a short break, The Weepies started the show on a tender note, with the majority of the band providing the quiet hand percussion behind Deb’s lilting vocal on “Please Speak Well of Me,” a song inspired by the couple’s growing family, and specifically the thoughts of mortality that having children often brings. The band, featuring Brad Gordon on keys, Frank Lenz on drums, Jon Flower on bass and the brilliant Meghan Toohey on guitar and vocals, took their positions for perfectly alive versions of tracks from the bands catalog, landing on the cheery “I Was Made For Sunny Days.” Steve was most comfortable addressing the crowd, interacting with the audience as if he were in a room full of friends.
Friends enough to share the gory details of the story behind “Riga Girls,” which involves Deb walking in on an “accidental” Internet porn viewing. Even more interestingly the story behind the title track of the groups latest record, which apparently spawned from a fight between the couple. Deb warmed up towards the end of the show and shared some precious moments. Riding on the tour bus with two infants clearly must provide hours worth of material, but tonight it introduced “Antarctica.” Feeling the energy of the crowd, they called an audible and went off the set list with “Love Doesn’t Last Too Long.”
The band left on a high note, and as if the proceedings couldn’t be any sweeter, the couple sealed the show with a kiss and a wave goodnight. Should you find yourself able to catch one of the band’s remaining dates, I implore you to make every attempt to do so.
For more insight into what makes The Weepies tick, make sure you read Jason Hare’s brilliant interview with the couple. He also caught this excellent video of Steve and Deb performing “Sing Me to Sleep,” a track from Steve’s solo record.