(L-R): Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate, Deer Tick's Robbie Cowell and John McCauley, Bryan Dufresne of Six Finger Satellite, and Black Lips' Ian Saint Pe. (Photo: Harley Oliver Brown)
Diamond Rugs, the latest hard-rocking, boot-stomping supergroup to hit the Mason-Dixon line between indie rock and alt-country, played a surprise show at Brooklyn's Bell House on Friday night. Featuring John McCauley and Robbie Cowell of Deer Tick, Black Lips' Ian Saint Pe (who apparently tied up the last Billboard reporter who interviewed him and was hoping I would let him do the same), Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate, Bryan Dufresne of Six Finger Satellite, and Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, D. Rugs played their self-titled debut front to back in front of a small but enthusiastic audience who requested an encore even though "that's all the songs we have," as McCauley reminded them.
The somewhat impromptu set served as an unveiling of sorts for the band before their Sunday concert at Central Park Summerstage with Alabama Shakes and Robert Ellis, which was originally supposed to be their New York debut before their appearance tonight on The Late Show with David Letterman. After replenishing their onstage bin of Tecate, the band's central six members were joined by "some trombone player" and Diamond Rugs producers Adam Landry and Justin Collins of Nashville's Playground Sound Studios. The production team, who has also worked with Deer Tick and Sally Ford and the Sound Outside, contributed percussion and surprisingly deep baritone, respectively.
Partisan Records co-founder and band manager Ian Wheeler. (Photo: Harley Oliver Brown)
After the show, the band threw open the backstage doors and stood around chatting with attendees including Delta Spirit's Matt Vasquez and his wife, who moved to Brooklyn together from Long Beach, CA; writer/producer Ryan Henriquez, who is currently making a documentary on Diamond Rugs and who has made films on Deer Tick, country singer-songwriter Jonny Corndawg, and McCauley's other supergroup Middle Brother with Vasquez and Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith (you may also recognize Henriquez' name from his work as in-house counsel for EMI Music Publishing and MTV Networks); Fred Patterson, who formerly played in The Precisions with Berlin and is currently archivist at Columbia University's ARChive of Contemporary Music; and folk singer Robert Buckner, who opened for Diamond Rugs. Also in attendance was band manager and Partisan Records owner Ian Wheeler, who has worked with McCauley's various projects for five years now.
Singer/songwriter Richard Bruckner kicked off the evening with his minimalist folk. (Photo: Harley Oliver Brown)
Despite suggestions that Diamond Rugs is just another "John McCauley" project, Wheeler maintains that in the studio everyone was an equal, even McCauley's idol Berlin. The chemistry worked so well, in fact, that D. Rugs are already planning a second album and a "Money, Bitches, Blow" tour in October. McCauley and Berlin remained mum about their progress on Deer Tick's forthcoming album, which they're working on at Berlin's studio in Portland, OR, but they were quite open about how the two first met. Berlin confessed he "didn't realize it was the John McCauley" when the singer first approached him at a meet-and-greet after a Los Lobos show, while McCauley in turn admitted he was "tripping balls" when Berlin invited him for beers after the concert.
Producers Justin Collins and Adam Landry of Nashville's Playground Sound try to get in on the action. (Photo: Harley Oliver Brown)