Concert Review: Sean Rowe, The Handsome Family (6/20/2013)

I went to Passim’s in Harvard Square last week to see Sean Rowe and the Handsome Family. I have seen Sean Rowe a couple of times before but the Handsome Family was new to me – I was looking forward to hearing them for the first time because some friends of mine really like them (and I always listen to my friends!).

Passim’s is a solid place to see a show – it’s a small, fairly crowded seated venue that serves food and drinks to your table. I wish they would serve drinks cold (nothing quite like an 80-degree glass of white wine on a warm summer day!), but otherwise I have no major complaints. It’s on my “happy to see a show here” list of venues.

Sean Rowe was the opening act, and as usual he put on an excellent solo set for us. He did songs from both of his albums (“Magic” and “The Salesman and the Shark”) as well as some newer material, including one he told us he had just written in the last week or two. He also did a great cover of the classic Spoonful, which I caught on film an SD card:

Mr. Rowe has got tour dates scheduled in the US and Europe, you can check out his schedule by clicking here. You should try to catch him before he starts playing bigger venues!

The Handsome Family were the main act and they put on a great show, too. They were quirky – eccentric, even – and I think Brett Sparks and Sean Rowe are destined to star in a reality TV show on Discovery Channel which will inevitably be called Beard Wars. (I just googled that to make sure it wasn’t an actual thing, and I am crushed to find out that there is actually a TV show called “Whisker Wars.” Seriously. I literally can’t make up a show stupider than the ones that are actually on TV.) Um, anyway, point being, they both have magnificent beards, which came up quite a bit during on-stage banter. :)

I particularly enjoyed Rennie Sparks’ bass ukelele (I’m not sure if there’s an official name for it – it looked like a uke strung with bass strings and it sounded like a bass – you can see it in the video below). I always love seeing unusual and homemade instruments. It goes along with my love of extended techniques, I guess – it all stems from a desire to hear something different and new.

The Handsome Family played a lot of songs from their latest album, “Wilderness,” which were all named after animals. My favorite was Octopus, which I didn’t catch on my camera, but here is a live version someone else filmed last year:

The Handsome Family have a bunch of tour dates scheduled this summer and fall in the U.S., including some with Andrew Bird out on the west coast. You can see their schedule if you click here. This was only my first time seeing them, but they’re definitely going on my list of bands to see whenever they’re in town!

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