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GURNETT: Weepies at the Tralf an intimate experience

Thursday night, indie darlings The Weepies brought their “Alone and Acoustic” tour to the Tralf. The result was an intimate, personal concert full of old and new songs from the band's vault and plenty of road stories. After years of touring with a full band, the husband-and-wife team of Steve Tannen and Deb Talan decided to make this one about small, intimate shows. So they packed up their family in their SUV and left for this two-person tour.

The set opened with “Nobody Knows Me at All.” Deb's beautiful warbly, smokey alto is even more striking live. It's a voice that oozes the insight behind their songs and bleeds American folk music. Both she and Steve played acoustic guitars, finger-picking their way through their short and sweet songs, sometimes using open tuning. Without a backing band, the songs truly played like the brief, beautiful vignettes of happiness, sadness, love and life that they are.

In between songs, the band—Steve, especially—spent a generous amount of time bantering with the crowd. Steve's stories, which alone would have made for an entertaining evening, covered topics from the stories behind specific songs to their children on the drive in pensively asking where the buffaloes are in Buffalo. At many times it felt like a real conversation with the audience; Steve even bought drinks for the night for a fan who could tell him the origin of the name “Buffalo.” They talked about their writing processes, their reason for touring without a band (“I just get bored. Can we play some other tracks?” -Steve), and Deb went especially personal by talking about her recovery from stage II breast cancer. There was also plenty of charming banter and joking (Steve to the audience: “Buy more drinks. We get better. That's our secret.”).

The wide-ranging set included a bluegrass tune called “Rocks and Water,” as well as songs like “I Was Made for Sunny Days,” the title track of their most recent album Sirens, “Please Speak Well of Me,” “Be My Thrill,” Riga Girls,” “The World Spins Madly On,” and “I Gotta Have You”.

While Deb's alto defines The Weepies' sound, Steve is an excellent singer as well, with a very folksy vintage voice that calls to mind a hybrid of Paul Simon and James Taylor. Steve also provided some excellent guitar licks. He didn't solo often, but when he did, it was precise and spot-on.

The show felt spontaneous, easygoing, and the set list flowed as the whim (and occasional audience requests) took the band. There were times when both Deb and Steve moved over to accompany the other on piano. Other times, one member left the stage momentarily allow the other to highlight some of their own material—notably, songs “Butterfly” and the Beatles-esque “Stained Glass” from Deb's upcoming solo album (which Deb described as similar to “bringing a new child to school; you know you love them, but how will other people react to them?”). For the encore, they did the Christmas-themed “All That I Want.”

The Weepies accomplished everything they wanted for with this show. It was an intimate evening with a relaxed, casual vibe that felt like the kind of acoustic concert you might experience in a friend's living room. The crowd's attention was rapt during each song (and even, contrary to Steve and Deb's jokes to “talk among yourself” during turnings) remained perfectly quiet in order to hear every note played and every word sung. It was so quiet that, at times, I could hear the hand dryers from the restrooms as The Weepies played. This was the band's first trip to Buffalo, and they definitely left their mark on a crowd that was clearly enamored by the whole evening.

-- Ryan Gurnett has a B.S. in Music Industry from The College of St Rose. He has worked as a studio engineer, live sound engineer, producer and sound editor and has been a musician for 25 years. He is currently the bassist for The Lady, or the Tiger?. Email him at never_really_been@hotmail.com or find him on Twitter @SirWilliamIdol.

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