Part of the reason why we decided to do this crazy adventure is because we get a thrill out of that initial note you hear from the sound system at a live show. After the lights go down and the crowd is waiting for the headliner to play – the immediate adrenaline rush you get when the first song fills the room is spine-tingling.
Last week, we had our first official outing for Crushing Vinyl! Even though the venue didn’t provide the light show or epic boom of a bass drum, the excitement of seeing Wes Hutchinson play on the small stage at Prohibition on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the first time was no different. When he started a mini sound check we turned to each other, grabbed our drinks and squealed like actual children.
Wes, who was reading music sheets from his iPad, kicked off his first set with a Dylan-esqe version of “Into the Mystic,” and it was great. His guitar case acted as his coat hanger, as it leaned against the wall next to the stage. Even though it was a little hard at times to understand the words he was singing, the sound of his music filled the bar. He then launched into what we like to call the “Tom Petty Fan Club Set” Don’t get us wrong, “Learning to Fly” and “Won’t Back Down,” among the others he played, are great songs, but maybe we were looking for a little more diversity during the set? The second set was better – Wes played The Rolling Stones, INXS, The Cure, Cold Play, Ray LaMontagne, Roxette, and even Chuck Berry. There definitely is a Bob Dylan quality to Wes’ voice, but it works within the people and bands he chooses to cover.
The real highlight for us for the evening was his fellow musician on stage, Ryan Vaughn. At one point, he Marcus Mumford-ed us – he played the drum with his hands, the cymbal with a brush, the tambourine with his foot, and sang back-up vocals. He was inspiring and mesmerizing to watch. Not to mention, he was super nice to us when we introduced ourselves and offered up a few suggestions for musicians to look out for in NYC.
At the end of our night, Wes and Ryan asked for requests. Alicia suggested “In My Life” by the Beatles, and Rachel requested “Story of My Life,” by One Direction; and while they songs seemingly have so much in common – UK Bands, reflective songs, catchy riffs – only Alicia walked out a satisfied customer.
Prohibition will probably turn into one of our go-to locations. It’s central because of where we live and work, but it still feeds the intimate setting rush we crave – without having to trek to the LES to find it. It was Rachel’s first time there and we’ll definitely go back again. It wasn’t too crowded since we went on a Tuesday night, but we know that the bar gets super crowded on weekends as larger cover bands take the tiny stage. We left a little before the set was over but it was definitely a night well done.
RCS Takeaway: At the end of the night, I can’t say that I was Wes’ biggest fan. I didn’t feel the same excitement I started with when we left. His percussionist/background vocalist Ryan Vaughn? He stole the show. Ryan held my attention with every tambourine foot tap and I could feel myself connecting more with the songs that had heavy kick-drum and cymbal backing.
Alicia’s Takeaway: Wes is a very talented musician with a low soulful voice. But I felt like he was playing covers to appease what he thought people in an UWS bar wanted, and maybe he didn’t need to. He left me wanting to hear some of his own original music and I think there’s room for a few of them in his set. He could replace one of the 8 Petty songs we heard. BTW – I will always recommend Prohibition to anyone looking for a fun evening, whether an intimate session Sunday – Wednesday, or a rowdy crowd Thursday – Saturday, it always serves up great music.