Midway through his set, singer-songwriter Chris Kasper, visiting from Philadelphia, asked the audience at Cafe Nine: “What day are we at, Monday?”
Audience members responded yes. “We’re just getting started,” Kasper said.
Home indeed is the central theme of the record, whether it’s Stone promising “I’ll take you home” on the opener, “Weary Traveler,” or lamenting how “my baby told me that it seems I’m better off alone, so I sing this lullaby ‘til you come home” on the closing tune, “Sentimental Tendencies.” And, of course, in the title track Stone says, “it’s a long way home when you got no trail to follow, but it’s never too late to reinvigorate.”
The whole record marries a country-rock vibe with enough of a punk attitude to not let it all get too sentimental. Simply stated, Long Way Home is fun. You can straight-up dance to the tunes “8-4” and “Take it Easy, Sally” while “Maryanne, Salute the Birds” and “Hawk Stone Way” give you a full-on rock ‘n’ roll feel. The banjo and mandolin on tunes such as “Pick Up,” “Crocodile Tears,” and the aforementioned title track also give one the feeling of spring and summer — now in the not-so-distant future.
Monday evening Pat Stone and the Dirty Boots came right out of the box with nine tunes, eight of which were from Long Way Home. With Stone on vocals and guitar, Tom Voytek on guitar and mandolin, Andrew Wyton on bass, and Nick Cannato on drums, the band tore through its set with barely a moment’s rest, rocking the bar and the crowd and appearing to have a great time. The songs translated well to the live stage. Voytek jammed on the mandolin as intensely as if it was his guitar. The band added backing vocals to Stone’s lead and made every song sound like a celebration. Stone had mentioned before the show that “it’s all fun now” that the record was recorded and released, and it was obvious the band was enjoying sharing their new tunes with everyone. The crowd loved it all, giving the band a rousing reception.
Next to the stage was Instant Treeline, a five-piece band consisting of Will Leet on vocals and guitar, Tyler Campbell on guitar and vocals, Jeff Koch on bass, and Dane Scozzari on drums. Home was also brought up by this band, as Leet mentioned that although most of the band was currently based in Brooklyn, he himself was from Madison and even shared a song about it — one that saw Campbell switch from guitar to xylophone for the not-too-sentimental but still charming tune about finding your place in the world after school and childhood is over. Leet and Campbell’s vocal harmonies sweetened even the harder-rocking songs. The band had enough enthusiasm and energy to bring a few of the mostly sedentary members of the audience to their feet and moving along, though even the ones who stayed seated still responded wildly to this tight and fun seven-song set.
Last to the stage for the night was Chris Kasper, who took the stage accompanied by Kiley Ryan on vocals, violin, mandolin, tambourine and drum for a folk-bluesy rock set of 13 songs — the last one heartily requested by the crowd, who did not want to see this performer leave quite just yet. Songs like “State Trooper,” “China Rose,” and “The Never Saw You Blues” showed off Kasper’s guitar work and raspy vocal take on his delicate but hard-earned lyrics, while Ryan added in layers of sound and nuance to make each song sound fresh and unique, whether it was a full on violin solo or simply plucking its strings.
“She brings what I do to life,” said Kasper about Ryan.
Appreciation for Cafe Nine and New Haven itself came up, as Kasper mentioned that with this visit to the city he “learned two things: we didn’t know you were so close to the water, and we didn’t know pizza started with an a,” which got much laughter from the crowd. He also sang a song “City by the Sea,” which he said “could be about New Haven.”
His final song for the evening — the one that was supposed to be last before the crowd begged for one more — was a cover of “You Don’t Know How it Feels” by Tom Petty, a song that had nearly the entire bar singing along, as if they were all at home.