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Concert Reviews

REVIEW – The Kyle Sowashes Full of Surprises at Ace of Cups

Words: Rick Gethin
Images: Susan Muller

“Music is the only religion that delivers the goods.” ~ Frank Zappa

Thumbing their nose at superstition, The Kyle Sowashes released their latest album “I Don’t Know What To tell You”, with a celebratory album release show at Ace of Cups on Friday, September 13. Our review of the album declared that it is “by far the strongest collection of songs contained within the group’s discography.”

On this evening, the festivities were opened by Brat Curse, followed by Miranda Sound. While the crowd was appreciative, it seemed as if most were waiting for what the headliners would bring to the party.

The band, comprised of Kyle Sowash (vocals/guitar), Dan Bandman (drums), Justin Hemminger (guitar/vocals) and Nick La Russo (bass), enlisted the services of a horn section to accompany them, consisting of Carolyn Dever (trumpet) and Bob Starker (tenor sax). This was the first pleasant surprise of their set.

They opened the show with a cover of Andrew Gold’s very recognizable Thank You For Being A Friend. This was met with approval from the assembled audience.

The second surprise came when Sowash announced that they were going to play the new album in its entirety and in order, before launching into Washed Up, with the heavy bass groove setting the tone. Sowash sonically stretched his legs during his short guitar solos, which was a them repeated throughout the set.

With a bit more edge to Sowash’s vocals, Bottled Up became aurally more poignant than the recorded version. Without missing a beat, the band rolled right into Bowling Ball. The number carried more energy in the live setting, with Sowash’s cerebral humor on point. The horn section added wonderful depth to the first three songs before taking a seat, with Dever and Starker up to the task for the evening.

Despite the subject matter, Bumming Me Out sounded almost celebratory with a distorted musical edge that gave the appearance of going off the rails at any moment.

“We’re still on side one, guys, don’t worry,” proclaimed Sowash, as the upbeat tempo of Not All Heroes Wear Capes brought the mood back up with guitar flourishes that were subtle, yet rich in their texture. Bandman counted off the next tune, You Can Do It, as the band found a way to make the number hit harder in the live setting.

The slower tempo of the title track had Sowash’s vocals carrying an air of seeming indifference, eschewing the feeling of despair heard on the album. At its conclusion, Sowash said, “That’s the end of side one, kids.”

They wasted no time in bringing the pace back up with the second single from the album, I’m Busy. The guitar work from both Sowash and Hemminger took the crowd right back to the early 90’s. With both guitarists in sync to start Etiquette, Sowash was almost spitting the lyrics with disdain, again adding an edge to the live performance.

They were full of energy, stomping on the accelerator for the fast pace of Captain Particular.” This is a song about the cinnamon challenge,” said Sowash, as the band kept the tempo elevated on Cinnamon Challenge. The bridge of the tune found Sowash stretching out with his axe, once again.

“We’re gonna bring it down a notch here,” Sowash announced before Stay Home‘s opening notes took the audience right back to the early 90’s. The beat was juxtaposed with the rather melancholy lyrics in a way that enhanced the overall feel of the song.

Bob Starker and Carolyn Dever

The easily recognizable strains of the MTV news intro morphed directly into Blueberry Beret, with the horn section back and adding textural layers to the number. While this was the first time the song had been played live, it was a little rough around the edges. This only added to the ambiance of the lyrical tale.

“I wrote this song in the back of a van in Europe,” said Sowash, alluding to the recent tour he played bass on with Lola G. and DTCV (pronounced “detective”, with the band based in L.A.). “This song goes out to her,” he opined before the slow tempo of That’s How They Get Ya wafted from the stage. The final surprise of the evening was the fact that Lola G. was in the crowd. Dever’s trumpet added a melancholy feel with the straining notes in all the right places. Sowash extended the bridge/guitar solo before concluding the tune.

“Thanks, that’s the end of the record,” Sowash proclaimed, as the band began playing their cover of the Silver Jews song Random Rules. They managed to give it a sad lounge feel, bringing the crowd in for a gentle landing.

As Sowash said, “Thanks a lot everybody,” the audience began chanting for one more song. After just a short break, the band played Richmond, VA from their 2015 album, “Everybody.” The tune began with just Sowash’s guitar, before the band joined in on the slower tempo, providing a fitting bit of closure to the evening.

“Thank you very much,” said Sowash, as the band walked offstage and into the appreciative crowd.


  1. Thank You For Being A Friend (Andrew Gold cover)
  2. Washed Up
  3. Bottled Up
  4. Bowling Ball
  5. Bumming Me Out
  6. Not All Heroes Wear Capes
  7. You Can Do It
  8. I Don’t Know What To Tell You
  9. I’m Busy
  10. Etiquette
  11. Captain Particular
  12. Cinnamon Challenge
  13. Stay Home
  14. Blueberry Beret
  15. That’s How They Get Ya
  16. Random Rules (Silver Jews cover)
    ENCORE – Richmond, VA (from The Kyle Sowashes album “Everybody”)

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