Wallace on Fire at LIC Bar

by delarue

Last night Wallace on Fire played LIC Bar. Any musician whose peers rave about him – or who’s ambitious enough to seek out Lorraine Leckie as a collaborator – is always worth discovering. This particular version of the band was just frontman J Wallace on guitar and vocals and Joe Wallace (no relation) on bass. Even stripped down to just the basics, they were definitely worth the trip to Queens. J Wallace plays his acoustic through a Fender tube amp, often running through a distortion pedal for just enough grit to add an extra level of menace. The bar’s booker described their music as country blues, which is a starting point – J Wallace’s songs take the style to new places. He gets a lot of props for his vocals – and he’s an excellent singer, no question, as strong when he goes up the scale as when he hangs around the low notes – but he’s also a strong guitarist. Rather than getting involved in extended solos, he works in thoughtful riffs from across the acoustic blues spectrum (and one from Jimi Hendrix), and he’s just as solid with country and folk styles.

Some of the slower songs went into straight-up rock: a couple with echoes of heavy southern rock like Black Oak Arkansas, another that staked out territory in an artsy, post-grunge vein much like Fen or bands of that ilk. And then they segued straight out of that one into The Rain, a catchy, pensively swaying Leckie tune with a dark Patti Smith vibe. The set’s opening tune built around a menacing Steve Wynn-style hammer-on riff; a bit later, they covered Neil Young – another obvious but not overwhelming influence – and then went from bouncy folk-pop, to a carefree, whistling country song and then back to the pensively burning bluesy stuff.

Joe Wallace is an excellent bassist, propelling the songs with a smart, in-the-pocket style while managing to slide all over the place, using all kinds of imaginative voicings along with the occasional booming chord: watching him play was inspiring. LIC Bar seems to be a home base for Wallace on Fire: watch this space for upcoming shows.