Dru Cutler at the Living Room. (c) Vladimir Weinstein.

We here at the GP like to tell you about local bands we recently saw live, because they play in a lot of local places and you should know what to expect if you go.

Dru Cutler played at the Living Room recently and the audience was having a great time, so here is why I think that happened.

First off, the guy cares a lot about his band being in tune and tight to the rhythm. That’s important when you have an audience like this one, which looked like it was composed of a lot of earnest nice folks out on a first or second date. Cutler’s primary goal, it appeared, was to endear himself to them and show he’s a good guy with relatable stories. This was not a punk show where everyone there was only looking to GET LAID or GET PAID, including the band.

Dru Cutler. (c) Vladimir Weinstein.

Cutler fits into the “performing songwriter” category: there’s not a whole lot of weird guitar and synth noises making it hard to understand his lyrics. When he played Dylan’s I Shall Be Released it fit in with his style. But the genre descriptor that came most to my mind for him was, weirdly enough, “cabaret.”

In that, he had a lot of stage patter between songs, and showed home movies on the screen. He also premiered his music video Familiar at this show. Then he had the audience manhandle his spangly homemade lighted guitar cable.

Guitar cable. (c) Vladimir Weinstein.

I would love to see him take his crowd-pleasing skills to another level, though, by letting his interactions with the audience move in unexpected directions, once he has them in the palm of his hand. This also means rocking out and improvising a little more while playing. The best example of how to do this would be the late great rockabilly star Ronny Dawson, another similarly clean-cut guy with a tight band. Ronny cared most about bringing his audience the joy and energy he had found in his own life, through his shows, but then once he had them he shot them along a few head-high waves.

If you want to hear what I’m talking about check out Dawson’s Live at the Continental Club. Here is one of the songs that appear on that album, played at the (now-closed) Rodeo Bar in NYC, where drummer Lisa Pankratz raptures herself into the lure of the jungle beat.

Cutler already gets the pull of 50s pop sounds. Check out his Soundcloud site, he provides a nice set of cuts online, including some 50s covers like Can’t Help Falling in Love and Bye Bye Love. 

What I like though, is that on that Soundcloud, he’s also doing contemplative, hypnotic, sometimes purely instrumental stuff. Playing with post-punk discordant chord structures.

But Saturday night was not about that. He knows he is a master humorist too, and he knows his audience, and in the romantic space that is the Living Room, with its arching tall ceiling and intimate tables below, he somehow managed to even out-best Wally Pleasant in his student loan song called Paying For It Now, with the whole audience singing along, the high point of the night:

I’m glad I went to school / Glad I got accepted
Glad my education was valued and accredited but lord-y / I’m payin’ for it now

Cutler (c) Vladimir Weinstein

What’s great is I sense that he is going to hit an apex where his experimenting with the “sounds of now,” i.e. post-punk, and first-hour Shrunken Planet John Fahey contemplative acoustics windings, is going to benefit from exactly what those two genres lack, specifically witty and audience-connecting lyrics.

It would be just the type of thing you would think would result from his current skulking around with the Unit J Bushwick informal collective.

In the meantime, he puts on a crack show. Take your date. Show her or him the romance and hope that’s very much still alive in North BK.

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