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The New Amsterdams / Kevin Devine tickets at The Back Room @ Colectivo in Milwaukee
Sun May 7, 2023 - 8:00 PM

The New Amsterdams / Kevin Devine

Make The Clocks Worse Tour Brother Bird
The Back Room @ Colectivo, Milwaukee, WI Ages: All Ages
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The New Amsterdams / Kevin Devine

Make The Clocks Worse Tour Brother Bird
The Back Room @ Colectivo
2211 North Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Sun May 7, 2023 - 8:00 PM
Ages: All Ages
Doors Open: 7:00 PM
Door Price: $22.00
Onsale: Fri Jan 13, 2023 - 11:00 AM
Please Note: There is a transfer delay in place until 1 week prior to show.

Bio: The New Amsterdams

The New Amsterdams' new album, Story Like a Scar, breathes like a breeze across the prairie and shimmers like the sun on the Kansas River. Not that the band's lyricist, Matt Pryor, was consciously evoking the Kansas locale he calls home. Still, lines like, "It echoes in the hills," "midnight on a dirt road" and "a secret concealed in the wheat fields" conjure an unmistakable sense of place.

They laid Story Like a Scar down in Nashville (in six 14-hour days) with producer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Freedy Johnston, Elvis Costello). And though the disc boasts lap steel, banjo, harmonica, stand-up bass and brushed drums, this is not country music. For lack of a more elegant term, it's roots rock.

Story is woven of a live, organic, first-take sound and a recording philosophy that embraced imperfection and the unexpected. Pryor's voice might best be described as "low lonesome"; it's not the hair-raising "high lonesome" tenor of bluegrass icons like Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley, but it bears a similarly forlorn quality, made accessible to 21st-century ears by Pryor's lived-in, everyman performances.

Additional insight into this state of mind is afforded by Pryor's comments about his bandmates - guitarist-singer Dustin Kinsey, bassist Eric McCann and drummer Bill Belzer. He says of their collaboration, "We've all been carrying this around, but we needed to find each other before we could lay it down."

Pryor says his work with this band enables him to delegate some of the songcraft responsibilities, explaining: "Eric and Dustin, who both went to school for music, are really into the recording; they love building the songs. I'll listen to what they've done and just say, 'This works, that works, this doesn't work … ' Everything's open to discussion, but this method works so well that we're constantly writing. Story Like a Scar is 10 steps forward from anything I've ever done, which has everything to do with this band. We found our collective voice with this record."

The memories recede as Pryor returns to the present. "There's a small-town quality to this record," he says, going back to "A Small Crusade," which, on the surface, is about a small-town character, a man who, after his house burns down, pitches a tent on an island in the Kansas River - the "Kaw" - and lives there ever after. Pryor sings to this man: " … by the riverside what you saw/ Was salvation on the Kaw/ To free who you were before/ Find what you were looking for." But we know he's talking about himself, about finding what he was looking for, what we all are looking for, in towns of every size: Community. Family. Home. Ourselves.

Bio: Kevin Devine

KEVIN DEVINE is used to living life in the gray. For the past 14 years, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter has oscillated between As and Bs: intimate acoustic moments and bombastic rock songs; deeply introspective lyrics and sociopolitical charges; the storm cloud and its silver lining.

Produced by John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) and released via Brand New’s Procrastinate! Music Traitors label, INSTIGATOR is Devine’s ninth full-length album and comes on the heels of a busy few years: In addition to recording two albums with Bad Books (the indie-rock supergroup he formed with members of Manchester Orchestra), he released the Kickstarter-funded double-album collection BUBBLEGUM and BULLDOZER in 2013 along with the wildly ambitious 2015 DEVINYL SPLITS 7” series with the likes of Brand New's Jesse Lacey, Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves and Nada Surf's Matthew Caws.

Devine is a master storyteller, and he imbues Instigator - from the biting power-pop of "Both Ways" and “No Why” to the angular, Nirvana-esque "Guard Your Gates" & gorgeously finger-picked “No One Says You Have To” - with intricate details and often-uncomfortable truths. Their meanings are personal, but their themes are universal. It’s a skill that makes both his albums and his live show so alluring: Even when Devine’s writing about the world at large, he’s pointing a mirror back at himself.

That sensibility is present on “Freddie Gray Blues,” a harrowing portrait of the events surrounding the 2015 death of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police officers. Over haunting acoustic-based talking blues, Devine pays tribute to Gray before digging deep into his own past to reconcile both his privilege and social status as the son, grandson and nephew of NYPD officers.  “I don’t think there’s a way for a person in my position to sing that song credibly without talking about why I’m in the room," he says.

And it’s there on “No History,” a string of personal vignettes centered on the September 11, 2001 attacks. It’s a song made much more meaningful by both the din of the 2016 presidential election and current global climate—a cautionary tale that one moment in time has wildly lasting repercussions.

When Devine’s past lives meet his present-day self on the career-defining “I Was Alive Back Then,” the beautiful duality of his art takes center stage: Life is never all peril or perfection, a country ripped apart by war and social injustice or the joy of holding your child for the first time. The extremes might be easier to define, but it’s in the middle where life really happens.

“That’s how I write records,” he continues. “You want to write about real shit. It’s really trying to communicate what I think it’s like to be me—even though I don’t know that all the time—and in the process help people touch a little closer what it’s like to be them, too.” XX

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