A man saunters onto a stage who’s lights have just been brought up. A tuxedo Silvertone Jupiter, well worn to the point you can’t see the name on the headstock, strapped on his chest. Rocking an L.L. Bean hat, a gray Carhartt t-shirt, denim with a series of patches and Chaco sandals. He very well could have been another gent walking down Church Street on Thursday evening, grabbing a bite to eat or some dank hopped beer after a hike through the hills, but this was Afie Jurvanen, most commonly known as the collective Bahamas.
The band graced the stage at Newport Folk two years, and to my own demise, I only caught a song or two from their set. When the roll outs came last year I have to admit I didn’t delve to much into the group. His hat was a little fancier and a red bandana was tied around his neck, but still rocking the Carhartt. I am only now kicking my own ass for not sticking around for their entire set.
Jurvanen’s vocal digs its own trench somewhere in the landscape between soul and embedded folk pop somewhere in the caverns of sounds emanating from the stage. A bit more Lou Reed than Jack Johnson (who the band had been touring with prior to gracing the stage in the 300 capacity Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground). Though he joked a bit about those shows and how those venues (and perhaps this one) are engineered to sell more beer, you could see a calm fall upon the band as they performed. They sunk back into a groove as they played to a crowd that was truly there to witness them perform and take in the music wholeheartedly.
The band rocked their way through a catalogue spanning older records and new songs. Caught Me Thinkin’ with its infectious trickling guitar note rhythm and an audience pleasing singalong with the heavily R&B centric Bad Boys Need Love Too highlighted the vocal prowess of harmony vocalist Felicity Williams. At one point during the encore she hit this note that I only though Mariah Carey was capable of…like vocal gymnastics or Cirque du Soleil level sh*t going on there.
I think what struck me most, and what can’t be understated enough, is how Afie is like “the every man’s rockstar”. His guitar playing is anything but typical. There is a fervor and soul in each note. Minimal “let me strum out this chord for a bit” and he is all over the neck. Brilliant arrangements and a flawless execution, particularly the almost surgical precision that the interplay between the two guitars unleashed. You know when you really dig like Allman Brothers dueling guitars or the first minute of a Dead level jam…yeah they do that perfectly, and it doesn’t carry on for 20 minutes. Balance my friends, Bahamas does it incredibly well. On stage there is a humor to his presence. I get the feeling he doesn’t take himself entirely too seriously, and that makes me like and listen to him ever more so. I want to be this guy’s friend.
All in all, one hell of a night of great music with lyrics that had some depth, guitar playing that shook my soul and a band that genuinely seems to love making these sounds on stage in front of people. Get out and see them if the are passing through.