Roi and the Secret People at Arlene’s Grocery 6/8/13

Last week was the start of a very busy period for me, a roughly week and a half period where I’d be covering live music every single night; most of it stemming from covering the New Music Seminar Festival 2013 and the 2013 Northside Festival, along with a couple of random things across town. So as I mentioned in a previous post, I caught the latest incarnation of Roi and the Secret People at Arlene’s Grocery – lead vocalist and songwriter Mike Roi’s move to Pennsylvania made it necessary for a massive lineup change. And in that lineup change, there has been a subtle change in approach and in sound. The slide guitar and Southern fried rock has been replaced by keyboards and a much more straightforward and perhaps more radio-friendly rock. As I said, just a second before it’s subtle – so subtle that if you put the band’s previous (and last) NYC-based release, Dog Street next to the band’s latest release Phoenix and had a casual listener listen to it, I doubt they’d notice much difference. This isn’t a terrible thing, in light of the fact that we’re talking about an artist that has found their voice, and finds comfort both in its strengths and limitations. Simply put, I couldn’t imagine Roi and his Secret People doing moody, Joy Division inspired post rock – nor could I imagine them doing black metal either. It would sound too incongruous and kind of phony at this point.

Certainly, with such a massive lineup change, there’s a different chemistry on stage. Although loud because they’re a rock band, there seems to be less of a need for showy pyrotechnics; in fact, there’s a professional self-assuredness with the same level of passion. And vocalist Mike Roi has a great, powerful voice with a slight Southern twang to it. But I do think there are some minor missteps here and there – the bridge sequence of “Dog St.” where the band plays the Doors “Peace Frog” is admittedly a bit tiresome at this point, as I’ve heard them do it a number of times and most importantly, the hellish, psychedelic visions Morrison conjures up in the original has always struck me as kind of weird tonal shift. The only way such a sequence in my mind really works is if the material had a grit and nastiness to it – and perhaps a palpable sense of danger to it.  And yet strangely, it still seems to kind of work. 

  Perhaps because I know lead vocalist, Mike Roi is a southerner – he originally hails from Florida – I’ve occasionally wished that they’d add some deep, Delta blues to the repertoire. Still. it was a pretty entertaining set and it seemed like a good way to start off a full week of live music.  

Check out some photos from the set below:


For these photos and the rest of the photos from this night of music, check out the Flickr set here: