As the Rockaways increase their hip quotient each year, first with surfers (who we all know make everything cool), then with artists, and more recently with musicians (Patti Smith has a place there), I keep thinking of that Bob Dylan line: "Something is happening here, but you don't know what is. Do you, Mr. Jones?"
On Wednesday night, the up-and-coming band Lewis Del Mar performed at Bowery Ballroom, on a stage bestrewn with palm fronds. There is noone in the band with that name. The band is actually two people--singer/guitarist Danny Miller and drummer/producer Max Harwood--longtime friends from the Washington, DC, area who have lived in a 2-room bungalow in Rockaway Beach since 2014. Signed last year to the Columbia label Startime International, the group is now on tour through the end of the summer, where some shows are already sold out 3 months in advance!
The Ballroom was packed, despite the fact that these guys have only released a 4-song EP so far. But their song "Loud(y)" logged in over 300,000 listens on Soundcloud last year, which naturally drew a lot of attention from the stokers of the star-maker machinery. The group has other songs, of course, which presumably will make it onto their first full-length recording. Still, they only played about an hour, so the catalog is not deep yet.
Their sound is sort of folk-indie, with some Latin motifs. And since these two guys previously played in a blues-rock outfit before landing in Rockaway, their sound is probably going to evolve more. According to Miller, he favored the acoustic guitar when younger because he lived near a radio tower that caused strange sounds to howl out of his amp when playing electric.
Miller's family originally comes from a fishing village in Nicaragua. Harwood's family lives in Panama. Indeed, both Miller's and Harwood's fathers are named Luis--thus the source of the band's name (Americanized), not only hearkening back to the beaches of Nicaragua but to the hipster shores of Queens.
On their recordings (though not in the concert) they also use samples of city noises they have recorded around town on their iPhones. At the Ballroom, they were joined on stage by three other musicians, on keyboards, electric guitar, and electric bass, to help fill out their sound.
Harwood's propulsive drumming is buried a little on their recordings, but performing live he smiles almost the entire show and his impeccable beats really kick the music into gear. If you are able to catch them this summer on tour, sit as close to his kit as the venue allows.
With his head of curls, Miller makes an appealing front man, who still seems a little bemused that a little over a year ago he and his friend were spending afternoons surfing the nearby waves, where once they ran into members of the band MGMT, also waiting to catch a wave. Funny to think that the wave Lewis Del Mar is riding now is introducing them to the world.
(More photos can be found here.)