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Published: 2002/02/26
by Jesse Jarnow

The New Deal, Bowery Ballroom, NYC- 2/22

NYC ROLL-TOP: The Big Event

"They played that song, man. You know, from that album."

With most bands, that kind of show reportage is usually mystifying at best.
With The New Deal, there's a better than average chance that dude is
talking about "Back To The Middle", which finds centerpiece spots on both of
the band's full-length releases, as well as making an appearance on one of
the band's live EPs. And, yes, they probably played it. You know, it's that
one that goes "do do do do do-do-do". Yeah, it kicked ass, and it's why The
New Deal seem perfectly cut for their new roles as dancehall kings of the
jamband scene.

The New Deal's appearance at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday the 22nd played
like The Big Event. Successful bands, at least in this universe, reach a
certain point when they are no longer providing the simple soundtrack for a
bunch of people to get hammered to. When the reach an inevitable size, they
are suddenly providing a deeply complex soundtrack for a bunch of kids to
get hammered for the first time to. This is all just a sociological
way of saying that The New Deal are becoming less of a band that plays all
the time in bars, and more of a band whose shows are Events, gigs that
people in suburbs hop on trains to see because they've heard it's a good

And it is a good time. From the conversations I overheard at the
Bowery, as well as reports I've heard from elsewhere in the northeast, the
band is making a name for themselves. Even though the Bowery Ballroom isn't
too much bigger than the Wetlands – The New Deal's longtime Manhattan home – the room is shaped like a standard, box-like theater, the stage is higher,
and the band's jobs as entertainers are pretty rigidly defined.

The band's music, a live distillation of house beats, is well suited for a
large audience. Every musician in the band – bassist Dan Kurtz, drummer
Darren Shearer, and keyboardist Jamie Shields – plays precisely assigned
parts, at least in the way they fit in with what their bandmates are
playing. Shields, for example, sticks pretty exclusively to keyboard tones.
He rarely invades the space of the rhythm section, nor does he contribute
too many bottom end or percussive noises. Shearer sticks well to the beat.
Things are clearly defined, and this allows the band to proceed with a
minimum of hesitation.

At the Bowery, the band played big, bulbous grooves that tumbled over each
other and kept the momentum going. It is to The New Deal's advantage that
they don't show any overt predilections towards the avant-garde. It's not
really in their script. Oddly enough, it is this effect that makes them
artful: simple things arranged simply. I can't identify the names of any of
the songs I heard the band play on Friday night (save for "Back To The
Middle"), and I'd bet that many people – even those that'd seen The New Deal
before – probably couldn't, but none of that particularly matters. I knew
them, and I danced.

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