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Published: 2001/09/06
by Dan Greenhaus

The New Deal, Wetlands- 8/31

When I arrived at Wetlands at 11:00, I found a significant number of kids
milling about outside the venue. Without giving it a second thought, I
walked right by them to the front of the line, which turned out to be the
right move, as my two friends and I were among the last of the ticketless to
be allowed in, as the show had become a sell-out. At the time, we knew we
were lucky, but exactly how lucky didn't set in until we left the club just prior to sunrise, after
the New Deal kicked off an extended weekend of "progressive" music in New York.

The New Deal, who hail from Canada, feature Jamie
Shields on organ, Darren Shearer on drums and Dan Kurtz on bass They have
been creating quite a stir with a brand of music they dub "live
progressive breakbeat house." Whatever you want to call it, their sounds have been
winning people over for the last couple of years. In fact, the New Deal
headlined at Wetlands this past New Year's Eve, which was the first time I
was lucky enough to hear them live.

With a DJ already spinning records and the crowd dancing, The New Deal
took the stage at 11:55 to cheers from all. The band picked up their
instruments and began playing in unison with the beats the DJ was spinning
until eventually the DJ had faded out entirely, leaving only the band. The audience
cheered enthusiastically as the trio lauched into an opening "jam," if that
is what you wish to call it- nearly forty-five minutes of intense techno. The first
set also included a cover of a Who song in this style, and when the group left the stage at 1:20,
many exhausted audience members were thankful for the break.

The evening demonstrated both the individual skills and the collective prowess
of the group. Jamie Shields' keys often predominated, as his sounds drove
many of the songs. He often had as many as four different keyboards going
at once, and on this night he was playing a brand new Fender
Rhodes for the first time. Dan Kurtz's bass playing was on point all
night, bringing the songs up and down with pinpoint accuracy, featuring some
seamless interplay with Jamie. Meanwhile, Darren Shearer's drumming was a demonstration in technique. He
stopped and started again with perfection, as his drumming kept a steady, compelling groove all night. One
other quick point- the lights were a strong addition to the music, thanks to the group's new lighting
director, Matt Iarrobino. His knowledge/anticipation of the songs and their
changes was perfect.

The second set, which carried the club towards dawn proved equally intriguing. In addition to multiple free-form explorations the group even broke out into an impromptu techno version of the Bon Jovi classic "Livin' on a Prayer." This had the venue in an uproar, with lots of folks singing every word. All in all, many people in attendance were checking out this band for the first or second time, in part to get warmed up for the arrival of The Disco Biscuits who were playing two sold out shows the next two nights. What many of them learned is that the New Deal is a fierce entity onto itself- a true force. As the band prepares to embark on a two month tour I advise many of you out there to attend the shows and celebrate in their sound.

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