Soul Asylum and Cracker with special guests Iridesense at The Space at Westbury
July 20, 2017
Soul Asylum celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2016. The alternative rock band was formed in Minneapolis, MN and originally called itself Loud Fast Rules. The band changed its name to Soul Asylum in 1983.
The band's original lineup consisted of Dave Pirner on vocals and guitar, Dan Murphy on lead guitar, Karl Mueller on bass, and drummer Pat Morley. Grant Young replaced Morley in 1984. The band's first five albums (three recorded for Twin/Tone Records and two for A&M Records) received some critical praise but did not chart. In 1992, it released the multi-platinum Grave Dancers Union (Columbia Records) album, featuring the Grammy Award–winning single "Runaway Train." The following year, Soul Asylum played at President Clinton's Inauguration. The band has also scored a platinum album with Let Your Dim Light Shine (Columbia Records, 1995).
In the ensuing years, Soul Asylum has continued to release albums--Candy From A Stranger (Columbia Records, 1998), The Silver Lining (Legacy Recordings, 2006), Delayed Reaction (429 Records, 2012) and its most recent effort Change of Fortune (Entertainment One, 2016). The band has also released several compilations and two live albums.
Over the years there have been a number of personnel changes. Currently, Soul Asylum is comprised of Pirner, Ryan Smith on lead guitar, Michael Bland on drums and Winston Roye on bass.
Cracker is also an alternative rock band. The band's signature one-of-a-kind sound mixes rock, punk, grunge, psychedelia, country, blues and folk. Lead singer David Lowery and guitarist Johnny Hickman formed the band in 1991, shortly after Lowery's former group Camper Van Beethoven disbanded (for the first time).
In 1992, Cracker released its eponymously titled debut album on Virgin Records. The album included the singles "Happy Birthday To Me" and "Teen Angst." The band achieved its greatest success with the best-selling 1993 album, Kerosene Hat (Virgin Records). Kerosene Hat featured the hit songs "Low" and "Euro-Trash Girl." In 1996, the band released The Golden Age on Virgin Records. Gentleman's Blues was released in 1998 on Virgin Records and featured a number of hidden tracks including: "1-202-456-1414" (the touch-tone phone number for the White House) and "1-202-514-8688" (a U.S. Department of Justice phone number, formerly held by Ken Starr) as well as "Cinderella." During the 2000s and 2010s, Cracker has continued to record. It has released Forever (Virgin Records, 2002), O' Cracker Where Art Thou (Pitch-a-tent Records, 2003) which contained bluegrass versions of Cracker songs, Countrysides (BMG, 2003), Greenland (Cooking Vinyl, 2006), and the 429 Records releases Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey (2009) and Berkeley to Bakersfield (2014). Cracker has also released several compilations, collaborations and live albums.
During its career, Cracker has featured twenty band members. Currently, the band is comprised of Lowery on lead vocals and guitar, Hickman on lead guitar, bassist Bryan Howard, drummer Carlton (Coco) Owens, Thayer Sarrano on keys and Matt "Pistol" Stoessel on pedal steel guitar.
Iridesense is a four piece band formed on Long Island in 1993. The band is comprised of Tara Eberle-Drouin on lead vocals and bass, Rick Eberle on guitar and vocals, lead guitarist Rob Viccari and Rich Drouin on drums.
The group has released three full length CDs: Cool Dream Tomorrow (Rock Diva Records, 1997), iRideSense on LLJ Records in 2001, and A Trip Called Life (Paradiddle Records, 2008). Its <em>Secret Constellation and Thought Parade EPs were independently released in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
Over the years, Iridesense has licensed tunes to Nickelodeon and had songs placed in several indie films, toured the U.S. and opened for, among others: Spin Doctors, Something Corporate and Gin Blossoms.
On a pleasant Thursday evening in late July, the Space at Westbury was host to a powerful and fun evening of alternative rock as Iridesense opening the night's festivities in the lounge with a short poppy set of songs that covered its entire career. Highlights included: "History In The Making," "I've Got It Good," "Fire Fly" and "Mind Control Society."
Cracker was up next on the big stage. Opening its set with "One Fine Day," the band rolled through strong versions of "Gimme One More Chance" and "Euro-Trash Girl." Lowery handled the vast majority of the vocals with strong harmonies provided by Hickman and Howard. "California Country Boy" featured a nice call and response vocal between Lowery and Hickman.
Other highlights of the band's powerful eleven song set included "Teen Angst," "Low" and "Sweet Potato." The performance ended with a lively version of "Get Off This" (during which the players each took short but engaging solos allowing them to show off their virtuosity) and "St. Cajetan" (a deep cut from the band's debut album).
Though the venue did not feature a sold-out crowd, Cracker played as if it was performing in front of an audience that was 50,000 strong. The band gave it's all and delivered a superb set featuring its classic psychedelic blues, punk, alt-country songs that had those in attendance bopping to the beat and singing along.
The headlining act, Soul Asylum, chose to appear on stage to the familiar WWE opening salvo--"Ladies and Gentlemen, Let's get ready to rumble!" The crowd was primed and the band wasted no time getting down to it. "Somebody To Shove," a huge hit was a powerful choice for an opening number. Pirner addressed the crowd, stating, "You're much too kind. Thank you! I want to also thank Cracker. Thank you, Cracker!"
The band delivered a nice set that offered a cross-section of classic hits and new material. Highlights included "Spinnin'," "Misery," "Shut Down," "Lately," Black Gold" "Cool," "Supersonic," "Eyes of A Child," "Never Really Been" and, of course, "Runaway Train."
“Without a Trace" was introduced as being "dedicated to Mr. Karl Mueller" (the band's late bassist who succumbed to cancer in 2005). Prior to "Don't Bother me," band members took exception to an annoying fan who was videotaping the entire show on a cellphone. He was told in no uncertain terms to "turn the fucking light off, asshole." Earlier Pirner had referred to the fan as Francis Ford Coppola. Evidently, when the initial hint didn't cause him to stop, the band had to resort to stronger measures. The fan was told that if he didn't stop recording the performance, he would be escorted out of the venue.
Though the evening could have been marred by the over-zealous fan, Soul Asylum and most-notably Pirner did not let it get in the way of making music. His performance and that of the band was top-notch. Pirner's voice hasn't aged. His stage presence continues to be magnetic. The performance was somewhat nostalgic, but in the best possible way. The players delivered powerful, enjoyable and dynamic modern/alternative rock. The audience loved it and the band fed off of the vibe.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon