Early in their Friday night Grog Shop set, The Dutchess and The Duke’s Jesse Lortz posed a question to the crowd, “I’m curious. Do you want us to sound perfect, or do you want us to sound like people?” He didn’t exactly wait for a reply, and continued, “If you want to hear perfect we have records for sale. Tonight we’re going to sound like people.” To which, The Dutchess, Kim Morrison, quickly added, “‘Cause I’ve been drinkin!”
By the sixth song, they ditched the set list and began taking requests straight from the crowd.
Two songs later and and two, or, three, or 14 missed notes or so, Lortz asked the crowd for a place to crash.
By the end of the set, it appeared as if The Dutchess and The Duke may just pass out on the Grog Shop floor.
It may not have been the prettiest performance, and it certainly was not the most proficient performance, yet, between the drunken declarations and the half-hit notes, and the nearly hit harmonies, it was a very human performance.
On record, The Dutchess and The Duke have a very intimate sound — most songs consisting of two guitars and the two principals harmonizing with only the most basic adornments. Friday night, it was just the two of them on stage, sitting on bar stools, pluckin’ and singin’ and teasing each other like a brother and sister stuck in the back seat of their parents’ car. With the missed notes, missed harmonies, and blurry eyes, the songs became even more intimate. As the night wore on, they were less like a touring band and more like the duo who have a regular gig playing your corner pub.
Except, of course, they needed a place to crash. With the night wearing on and the booze really kicking in, “I’m Just a Ghost,” became a big group sing-a-long. Members of opening act, Medication joined Lortz and Morrison on stage. Then, Lortz left the stage to be with the crowd. Morrison followed. Lortz decided to sit down. Morrison and the crowd followed. A drunk and bed-ready Lortz laid down amidst the crowd. Morrison and many in attendance followed. All the while the refrain, “I’m just a ghost” was repeated again and again and again and again. Yes, they really needed a place to crash. And yes, “Armageddon Song” was the train wreck that the band warned was coming. Yet, it hardly mattered. At the end of the set it was hard not to feel a kinship with the band. After all, they were human, and like humans they get drunk on a Friday night and they sing. They just have better songs and better voices than you and me.
Dutchess and The Duke Set List:
2. Livin’ This Life
3. Never Had a Chance
4. Reservoir Park
5. Ship Made of Stone
6. Let it Die
8. The River
9. Back to Me
11. Just a Ghost
12. Armageddon Song
Opening for the Dutchess and the Duke was a new kid on the lo-fi scene, Connecticut’s Medication. Starting slowly, and surely causing many to question why exactly this three-piece was on this tour, they eased their way through their first few numbers with hazy and layered guitar tones. Then, just as you were about ready to write them off, they perked up with “Didn’t Wanna Know,” “Your Heart,” and “This Town,” sounding a bit like Thee Oh Sees, or The Brian Jonestown Massacre without all the dickishness, or like a surf rock band without the perfect four-part harmonies. In other words, they’re one of the few new bands in the lo-fi crowd worth your time.
First up on Friday night was Cleveland’s Goodmorning Valentine. Lead singer Joey Beltram has led various line-ups over the years, and hearing him on this night it was apparent he’s just about perfected his Ryan Adams-like, alt-country sound. It’s polished, mature, and album ready with the only thing seemingly holding this band back (Besides the lack of attention inherent with being in a band in a not-so-sexy town) is that the band’s sound is almost too much like Ryan Adams. Close your eyes and you could imagine yourself in a small club hearing the real deal.
All photos by the most excellent Mara Robinson.