Dan Bern at the Music Hall of Williamsburg with Hammell on Trial – May 29, 2008

Dan Bern

This incredibly musical week was started off by a Thursday visit to the Music Hall of Williamsburg (another of the Bowery Presents venues) to see Dan Bern. After enjoying yet another lovely meal at Max SoHa, Alison and I met up with Matt to head down the Music Hall to enjoy their half priced happy hour where we toasted to “better bar teachers [for Alison] but not better bar tenders [for all of us].” Opening for Mr. Bern was Hammell on Trial. Hammell on Trial, one of those potentially plural names for a one-man act was very much enjoyed be me, though not so much by Alison. He definitely comes from the edgier side of the folk-punk scene and wasn’t afraid to give the crowd a loving one finger salute from time to time. Regardless, his songwriting was clever and funny, and he was able to get a good amount of sound from his guitar.

Dan Bern came on and played quite the set at two hours. Unfortunately, I was working on about two hours sleep from the night before and after the first hour began thinking more about the abundance of couches in the Music Hall’s lounge instead of the performance which by all accounts was well done and probably a real treat for the serious Bern aficionados as Matt commented that he played many fewer of his “hits” than when he had seen him perform at festivals. A few things of note about the performance were that unlike when Matt saw Dan last he was accompanied by an interpretive dancer and Native American drummer, this time he was accompanied by a gentleman playing a guitar in the style of a fiddle. That is, the instrument was viola sized, had six strings, yet was played under the chin and with a bow. Along with Dan’s guitar and harmonica it made for a nice sound. I’m not sure how much it added though and wouldn’t have minded just Dan though.

This marked my first visit to the Bowery Presents Brooklyn venue. It was remarkably similar to the Bowery Ballroom in the layout and aesthetic of the lounge. More importantly, however, it also had the same excellent layout in the concert space. Again there is a small floor area not all that much bigger than the Mercury Lounge (also of Bowery Presents) and a second level balcony that rings around both sides and the back of the room. The sound was good and, most importantly, like the Bowery Ballroom there wasn’t a bad sight line in the room. It’s a pain to get out there from the old Morningside Heights, but the venue is excellent and comes with Rattle My Cage’s express approval.

And to foreshadow my upcoming J.J. Grey and MOFRO posting it would seem that the two hour main act set is not a fluke.


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