Vinnie Caruana @ Harper’s Ferry (4/21/2009) [Review]

Vinnie Caruana

Tuesday, April 21st, was a typical April night by New England standards: on-and-off rain and wind and temperatures right around 50 degrees. Thankfully, I spent the night inside Harper’s Ferry with Vinnie Caruana and friends. I didn’t know about the show until just a few nights before it happened, but it’s nearly impossible to pass up an opportunity to see Vinnie performing a set of The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche songs acoustically. I knew the show would be good, but at the end of the night I was surprised at how amazing it turned out to be.

Transit and Thrash Unreal opened the show, neither of which I had heard before. They both played short, yet solid, sets and I wouldn’t be against checking them out again. Mike Ireland, of I Am The Avalanche, took the stage next under the moniker Spirit Houses. He admitted that he’d only performed acoustically a few times before, as his nerves definitely showed the first few songs. His voice wasn’t as strong as it could have been, and he just didn’t seem comfortable in front of the crowd. After the crowd warmed up to him a bit and he realized no one would throw a beer at him if he performed terribly, he calmed down and played much better. He only had a few songs to play, wanting to give Vinnie as much time as possible, but I hope that Spirit Houses stays around for awhile.

If you’ve ever met Vinnie, you won’t be surprised to hear that he came on stage with a side table from his living room and a lamp that he took from his late great aunt’s bedside. Throughout the night he told stories and jokes and heckled the crowd. Exactly what you would expect from Vinnie. Unfortunately, the set list was exactly what you would expect as well, as Vinnie told the crowd he couldn’t play the heavier/more punk-style songs because “they don’t fit into this [acoustic] sort of setting.” He played the slower I Am The Avalanche songs like “Green Eyes” and “I Took A Beating” as well as a good mix of The Movielife’s songs from their discography. I was happy to hear “Hey” and “Ship to Shore,” those being two of my favorite songs from Forty Hour Train Back To Penn. There couldn’t have been more than thirty of forty people at the show, but almost everyone knew all the words and sang along. In a way, I think Vinnie was glad that there weren’t too many people at the show. He was able to make mistakes and not worry about playing a song exactly as it was recorded – he knew that anyone in Harper’s Ferry that night just wanted to hear him play, not hear a collection of singles.

It’s hard to pick out a single highlight in a night so entertaining, but when Mike took the stage to help Vinnie perform “Brooklyn Dodgers,” there was a level of perfection that can’t be surpassed easily. It’s weird to hear Vinnie with nothing but an acoustic guitar backing him up, but it’s certainly not something to pass up. I’m not sure how often he does this sort of thing, but I wouldn’t want to miss out the next time he came around.

To see Vinnie’s full set list, go here.

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