By Carl Lavigne
Three glasses of amber whiskey sit among mic stands, guitars, and an eclectic assortment of percussion instruments. The lights go low and three shadows take the stage. Over the monitors booms a bass drum beat. One shadow begins hammering a drum on stage. The lights flash and The Ballroom Thieves erupt into song.
Based right here in Boston, the trio, consisting Martin Earley on guitar, Devin Mauch on percussion, and Calin Peters on the cello, play what their Facebook calls “rock disguised as folk.” Last Thursday, October 4th, they performed at The Sinclair in Cambridge, to celebrate the release of their new, eponymous EP.
They opened their performance with the EP’s first song “Down by the River,” a foot-stomping rocker, with a sing-along chorus. The song, like all four tracks on the EP, features a certain smarminess to its lyrics, “Don’t need faith and I don’t need money cus the two are best of friends, so won’t you please stay away from me honey, and I’ll hold down my end.”
The magic of the Thieves’ music lies in their impeccable ability to weave haunting cello howls, pounding percussion, and three-part harmony vocals together into a funky blend of sass, sorrow and seriousness. For instance, “Droves,” the EP’s second track, opens with only cello, before the rest of the band rumbles in, guitar first, followed by bells, intertwined with Earley’s silver tongued singing. “I’ve got a hummingbird heart, too quick to hold, I’ll trade the money in my pocket for the marrow in your bones,” Earley sings, before the cello descends into the chorus.
During the live show Peters switched readily between sawing on her cello with a bow and plucking the strings like an upright bass. Mauch’s drum kit consisted of a heavy floor tom, a djembe drum laid on its side, a crash cymbal, and a band of bells wrapped around his thigh. Earley soared from singing with a smile to crooning songs so sad the whole club went silent.
The EP’s third song, “Coward’s Son,” which Earley dedicated to his parents, who had driven all the way from Maine for the show, is a triumphant ballad that begins with some quiet, careful guitar work, eventually rising up to the deciding line: “I am not some kingless throne, I am not a coward’s son.”
The final track, “Armada,” is the CD’s most upbeat tune that sounds like it came right out of an old timey pub. “Armada” was the last song the Thieves played before taking a short break. For their encore the Thieves closed with the song “Save Me,” off their 2011 EP “The Devil & the Deep.” All three members abandoned the stage and, with one acoustic guitar, they stood among the crowd and sang totally unplugged.
Their outstanding performance, coupled with a four song EP stronger than many artists’ full-length albums, promise a bright future for this band. The Ballroom Thieves may be the next Mumford and Sons.
Listen to “Down by the River” here: http://www.ballroomthieves.com/
And check the Thieves out on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ballroomthieves