Sister Sparrow takes flight with The Dirty Birds

On November 18, 2012

  • Band Sister Sparrow (above) performed with The Dirty Birds at Town Ballroom Thursday night. Courtesy of Ran Zwigenberg

Women dressed in flowing skirts danced to the beat and men with canes stood at a normally packed venue in downtown Buffalo. The audience was anxiously waiting for a flock of nine to emerge from behind the curtains.

Rock/Jazz band Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds performed at Town Ballroom Thursday night for their first show in weeks. Compared to their performance at The Outer Harbor this past summer, attendance was unmatched; this time around, the band only played to approximately 30 fans. Regardless of the small turnout, however, the concertgoers gave their undivided attention to the band.           

Grace Schuster, 52, from Buffalo, pointed out that the Buffalo Bills game might have been a reason for the less-than-stellar attendance.

"I can see the Bills play like idiots any day," Schuster said. "I'd rather dance the night away."

Sister Sparrow vocalist Arleigh Kincheloe led her nine-man band with enthusiasm. The eight men who accompanied her included her brother Jackson on harmonica and her cousin Bram on drums. She darted around them on stage and gave each of them a chance to shine on their instruments.

"Having nine pieces, we have a lot of sounds meshing together," Kincheloe said. "Everyone has a chance to showcase their abilities, though."

During "Rock In It" from the group's self-titled debut album and "Another Ride" from last February's Pound Of Dirt, each band member had time to push the limits of their musical talent. Jackson's harmonica effortlessly held its own with the blaring of the trombone and saxophones.

The audience mercilessly danced to the rock-infused jazz and through the tones of reggae and ska. The gritty ska influence was notable in "Baby From Space" with the brass instruments as the focus of the performance. 

"I was influenced by New York City onPound Of Dirt," Kincheloe said.  "You can hear the intense and grimy New York City life embedded in our music."

Kincheloe's vocal ability never faltered; two songs in particular displayed her range and her passion.

On unreleased track "Fight," Kincheloe channeled Alanis Morrisette with gritty vocal inflections that were surprisingly pleasing.

"Boom Boom" had fans whistling for Kincheloe. She sang smooth lower range notes until the end when she let her rock flair out of its cage. The performance was consistent and Kincheloe's emotion glowed with every lyric she sang.

"Vices" from the band's debut album strengthened the bond the members have. Playing through the song, members were smiling at each other and having fun.

While Kincheloe said the dirty jokes from the boys are a little over the top on the road, she loves having her family with her through the good and the bad times.

Kincheloe's energy throughout the show remained high regardless of sweat and having a cold. The pounding of the drums and cymbals cascaded over the sliding of the harmonica while still keeping Kincheloe's vocals undisturbed.

The miniscule crowd chanted for one more song and the band obliged by playing a cover of "Ain't Nobody" by Chaka Khan.

"Sister Sparrow always gives it her all," Schuster said. "I would listen to her sing all night if I could."

Kincheloe's stage presence remained strong the whole night and she attributed that strength to her passion for what she does.

"The overall release I feel is my favorite part of performing," Kincheloe said. "If I'm having a stressed out week, as soon as I get on stage I feel free and it's the best therapy in the world."

Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds continue their tour through the Northeast until the first week of December.



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