Today, I’m going to use this space to talk about something that absolutely makes no sense whatsoever: the fact that NYC blues trio People vs Larsen is not more popular. They are better than my favorite band, your favorite band or your hipster roommate’s favorite band. Singer Tom Larsen sings and plays guitar with more soul, mind-blowing technical precision and ear-fucking rhythm than just about anybody you’ve seen live. It is impossible to hold a conversation while they are playing and you find yourself getting upset at people who do so. They have a regular gig at several bars in the NYC area, including every Friday at 1AM and Saturday at 2AM at the ultra cool Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel, home of the intense theatrical experience Sleep No More (more on that, perhaps, later).
And yet, this band currently has 170 followers on Twitter and just under 800 fans on their Facebook page. Their YouTube videos number their views in the hundreds (though one video has broken 2,000), scarce info about them is found online, and they don’t seem to have a following like, at all. To this I have to ask: what the fuck?
Granted, after having purchased their debut (and only to date) album, the self titled People vs Larsen, it’s clear they are better live than on record, at least so far in their fledgling career. The album is a solid if somewhat forgettable blues album with just seven songs on it, most of them covers of old blues songs. You can see the talent there, but nothing to blow your socks off.
Seeing them live is a different story. Skinny, unassuming singer/guitarist Tom Larsen struts up to the stage with an unbelievable intro song carried solely by his bluesy voice, with the only backing instrument being a quiet drum beat, and immediate shuts up half the room. His talent is the showstopper from then on, his guitar and voice alternating the spotlight, as his bassist Dylan Shamat and drummer David Tedeschi provide the backbone every good blues band needs. By the time he ends the hour-long set with a fiery rendition of “See My Jumper”, the whole crowd is in. Women are batting eyelashes at Larsen onstage, guys are all having the same conversation about his guitar playing and all of them have forgotten that it’s 3:15 and probably time to go home.
I’ve seen a lot of good live music–I’ve lived in two cities (Chicago and New York) that are hotbeds of music of all kinds, and this is one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, period. If you’re in New York and you love music, blues or otherwise, make it a point to go see them out. In 10 years, when they’re one of the biggest bands in the country, maybe you’ll get to say you saw them when they had 170 Twitter followers, in a crowd of 60 people, on a summer night in NYC at 2 AM.