Note: This blogger had his own gig on Friday night, and so missed this show at 501 Speakeasy. Fortunately, Vinton-based musician Tyler Osborne, formerly of The Low Anthem, was there and offered up a review. Here it is.
After captivating audiences at FloydFest, Crystal Bright & the Silver Hands returned to Virginia to play to a capacity crowd at 501 Speakeasy on Friday night. The band was packed into the back of the room, surrounded by enough instruments to supply the most bizarre musical emporium you will ever visit. Ugandan lap harps (Adungu), singing saws, boots covered with sleigh bells … you name it, and the Silver Hands likely play it.
Bright, an ethnomusicologist turned cabaret songstress, writes exceptionally catchy songs, drawing on influences amassed from the many ethnic song forms she studied while getting her masters degree. Having played in ensembles ranging from Balinese Gamelan to Mariachi ensembles, she flawlessly combines these influences with cabaret and gypsy jazz, resulting in a uniquely charming collection of songs.
As Crystal hoists on her accordion, bandmate Jeremy Denman plays a hushed melody on glockenspiel to begin the show. Then the self-proclaimed “Kaleidophrenic Cabaret” hits the audience with full force. Sounding somewhere between Rain Dogs-era Tom Waits and a Danny Elfman soundtrack, the Silver Hands trudge through some sludgy, gypsy jazz with intricate arrangements and heart-breaking ballad style pieces showcasing the obscure instrumentation that Crystal Bright’s songs thrive on.
The Silver Hands don’t stop at sludgy, gypsy jazz, though. She follows up the opening number with a tango (complete with Spanish lyrics), a solemn, minor key version of Jimmie Davis’ “You Are My Sunshine,” pop gems from their first album, including “Lollipop” and “Without A Hat,” all while keeping with her music’s cabaret roots.
The talent, energy, and diversity of The Silver Hands is astounding. They grabbed hold of the audience from the opening note of their theatrical set, pulled them intimately close, and would not let go. Every eye was transfixed on the band for their 90-minute set, heads bobbed to the deep groove the band implied, and gracious applause followed every song.
Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands are bringing a vastly overlooked musical form back with exquisite inventiveness, and now is the chance to see them play. It won’t be long before they are packing clubs and have their name on the tip of music lovers’ tongues nationwide.
Crystal Bright & the Silver Hands are:
Crystal Bright: Vocals, Accordion, Singing Saw, Piano, Adungu
Diego Diaz: Guitar, Lap Steel
Jeremy Denman: Trumpet, Cornet, Glockenspiel
Seth Oldham: Drums
Bradley Spencer: Mandolin
Aaron Bond: Bass