Photos by Asia Morris.
I'm telling you Long Beach, if you don't jump on this music scene you're going to be providing this writer with a lot of private shows. Granted, it was a Tuesday evening, when those of us still recovering from a hard-hitting Monday were still wallowing in bed with a bowl of popcorn and a Netflix movie; going out was probably the last thing on anyone's list.
However, a small group of night owls and fellow musicians showed up at The Federal Underground last week to see Baltimore-grown, Brooklyn-based, Americana-influenced folk outfit Animal Years, who released their debut album Sun Will Rise (Deluxe Edition) in May 2014. Opening artist Jay Stolar gave nothing short of a brilliant, emotional performance with the band’s help, priming the modest group of attendees for a resplendent evening.
Lead singer and band founder Mike McFadden has a voice that sits somewhere between Cold War Kids' Nathan Willett's drawn-out wailing and Kings of Leon's Caleb Followill's crackling-yet-guttural warble. McFadden's voice is entrancing, to say the least. It will draw you in and make you dance before you're even aware of your body moving.
Anthony Spinnato hammered out a primal yet still rhythmic beat on the drums, one of those inspirational players who makes you think you can play the drums yourself, later, with chopsticks on your kitchen table, until your reach the sad realization that you’ll probably never be as good, but hey at least you’re having fun.
Animal Years set off that feel-good, nostalgic vibe, transporting listeners to a place where you might be dancing under a string of soft yellow lights at your best friend's ranch house wedding reception. Two die-hard friends of the band must have felt the same way and braved the emptiness of the room to wiggle a hip and tap a foot once or twice to McFadden's passionate vocals, a lyrical leader who, although deserving of a bigger crowd, certainly delighted the ears of our intimate group. The band played a new song, entitled "Friends," an instant hit with the audience.
The small crowd could tell that Animal Years was simply stoked to be playing together and fed off that vibe. Bassist Anthony Saladino danced and moved sprightly like he couldn't help it, to the comical amusement of McFadden, who at a point could barely stifle a laugh in between words sung, while Spinnato drummed away like he was jamming, uninhibited in a friend’s living room. Those wandering downward from The Federal Bar's ground level certainly happened upon a late night gem of a performance that was just plain fun to be a part of.
Listen to Sun Will Rise (Deluxe Edition) by visiting Soundcloud or Spotify. For more information and upcoming shows, check out the band's website here. You can also watch the official video for "Forget What They're Telling You," a jam that will surely snap you out of your mid-week stupor. The band is currently working on a follow-up to their first album.