Video: The Felice Brothers @ Firebird 6/18/09

You can tell a lot about a band by its vehicle. In the case of the brothers Felice, their ride is a Winnebago, circa 1978, as white and long and wounded and harpooned and doomed as Moby Dick. How it would get them back to New York is anyone’s guess. Thursday night was the end of a long spring tour. Their idea of a celebration is a post-playoff riot in the streets.

Led now by just two bros, Ian and James (Simone, the band’s drummer and third singer and songwriter, has gone off to start the Duke and the King), the band includes bassist Christmas Clapton, drummer Searcher and fiddler Greg Farley. The latter threatened to derail the evening with excessive wigga pronouncements from stage (no white kid talks like that unless he’s got a mic in his hands), but eventually I succumbed to his MC antics, waving and hollahing with the rest of the 80 or so folks in attendance. The Firebird is a dingy little club, but the band invited everyone to crush up to the stage, get sprayed with water, and rock with them.

And though they’re the most dynamic of the backwoodsy blues freak folks out there, the Felice Brothers are a rock band, surging and clamoring through every song, even quiet burns like “Cooperstown” and exploding on “Run Chicken Run” in a spasm of accordions, fiddles and Fender amps. They covered Townes Van Zandt’s “Two Hands,” tried out some new songs, and ultimately wrecked the place. With the last chords of the last song of the encore, Farley dove, literally, into the drum kit, then dusted himself off and smashed his washboard to splinters. It was cathartic and fun and one of the best shows I’ve seen all year.