Download Mark Sinnis’ Debut Acoustic Show For Free
It takes a lot of nerve to release your first-ever live show, even more to give it away as a free download that anybody in the world can get their hands on. That’s what Mark Sinnis has done: his debut performance with his old 825 band, Live from Arlene Grocery June 30, 2001 is up at his reverbnation, free for the taking. The roughly 43-minute set comes as a single track, a surprisingly good-quality soundboard recording. Rough as some of this is, it captures a magical moment in New York rock history, when the Lower East Side was a hotbed of edgy nonconformity instead of the touristy clusterfuck it is today. Obviously, this wasn’t exactly Sinnis’ first time onstage: he’d been fronting bands since 1988, but this was his first adventure in the acoustic Nashville gothic “cemetery and western” style that would come to define him. Aside from a few missed chord changes, it’s amazing how tight the band is since they hadn’t yet recruited Landon Finnerty to play drums. And it’s also amazing how richly nuanced the vocals are: as crooners go, Nick Cave, Jim Morrison and Johnny Cash (the artist Sinnis most frequently gets compared to these days) have nothing on this guy, all the more impressive considering the notoriously uneven sonics where this was recorded. You can tell the band is competent, but other than accordionist Annette Kudrak – who was always this band’s not-so-secret weapon, and is already giving the songs her signature pitchblende swirl – they’re still getting their feel of the songs, electric guitarist Dave King and violinist Gavin Parker sticking to comping chords or doubling the melody line.
As a lush bed of jangle and clang quickly falls into place, Sinnis runs through a lot of what was then unreleased material. Jealousy, a slowly swaying blues that he would later record as a haunting duet with Randi Russo, rises from a dark, almost luridly seductive atmosphere to an aching, practically punk vibe and then back again. That tension recurs again and again toward the end of the set, possibly because the monitor mix might have gone haywire (a common problem at this joint). Without the drums, they push the beat a little on the unselfconsciously beautiful nocturne When the Sun Bows to the Moon, then reach for a murky, hypnotic ambience with Cause You Want To, probably the most Nick Cave-ish song in the set. After an unexpectedly optimistic, backbeat-driven country love song, they go back to the glimmering ambience with a brief version of Scars and then a strikingly restrained Waiting for the Train, which really captures the wee-hours “silence of futility” familiar to any New Yorker wondering if they’ll be in bed before dawn after a long night out. They wrap up the set with a triptych of backbeat dark country songs, closing with a surprisingly energetic version of Into an Unhidden Future, the title track from Sinnis’ solo debut that would finally appear eight years later. “We’re playing the C-Note on July 27 at midnight,” Sinnis tells the crowd; seconds after the band leaves the stage, the sound guy has Man or Astroman blasting over the PA. It’s a bittersweet moment in time, gone forever but thankfully captured for posterity, yours if you want it.