Aug 7, 2010

William Elliott Whitmore in Brooklyn

After cancelling his 2009 summer tour because of a health issue (purportedly swine flue), I was pretty damn happy when, earlier this summer, William Elliott Whitmore's name appeared as the opener for Frank Turner's August 4 show at Brooklyn Bowl.

Whitmore hails from a horse farm in Lee County Iowa. His nakedly introspective songs and disheveled look lend towards a certain Beat mystique, and it's easy to imagine him stooped up against the side of a parked train car with his banjo strapped across his back and a fifth of whiskey in his worn hands.

Worried the show would sell out, we arrived early to get stamped before heading out to a nearby bar. We definitely made the right decision because when we returned a few hours later the place was packed.

This was my first experience at Brooklyn Bowl, and as a concept it intrigued me. Having opened in July 2009, Brooklyn Bowl claims to "redefine the entertainment experience for the 21st century," and is a sprawling 23,000 square feet space that combines a bowling alley, concert venue and restaurant.

Now, I'm generally a fan of innovation, but having a bowling alley in the same space as a music venue just doesn't do it for me. A venue, in my mind, should do its best to maximize acoustics and sound quality, and when you have 10 lb bowling balls taking out pins a certain noise level is inevitable. And, when there is a certain level of background noise people feel at liberty to chat over the performer. All in all, I can imagine a rather loud band being well suited to the space, but a one man troubadour like Whitmore should never be booked in such a venue.

Enough venting...

Whitmore was phenomenal. Alternating between his banjo and Guild guitar, he rose above the noise of the alley in songs like Johnny Law, One Man's Shame, Old Devils and, my personal favorite, Burn my Body. He seemed genuinely humbled by the support of the crowd, and I look forward to catching Whitmore in a more suitable setting in the near future.

1 comment:

  1. definitely nailed it with the "at liberty to chat over the performer..." and with "..a one man troubadour like Whitmore should never be booked in such a venue", I feel your experience would've been compounded (based on your video)..

    Now the bowling alley part? Whole different monster all together...don't even get me started. =)