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Andy Stochansky

More than Just a Drummer

By Fred Choi

Those who still only know Andy Stochansky as “the guy who used to be Ani DiFranco’s drummer” are truly missing out. It is true that Stochansky spent a number of years playing and recording with the infamous Ani DiFranco. He lent impressive contributions to her songs and also provided numerous hilarious and memorable moments to her shows through random stage banter and classic humour. However, in the past six years Stochansky has taken the plunge and moved on to explore his own music, putting out two amazing albums and doing some extensive touring. Most recently Stochansky played a rockin’ show at T.T. the Bear’s with a full band and a number of new tunes.

Stochansky is one of those artists who, in addition creating strong and powerful albums, is at his best playing in front of a live audience. Anyone with an ear for good music will readily appreciate Stochansky after seeing him play live. Despite some vocal fatigue and some recurring feedback problems (which Stochansky handled with grace despite visible signs of frustration), the show at T.T. the Bear’s was in a word, amazing, and showcased Stochansky’s formidable abilities both as a songwriter and as a performer. Stochansky exhibited his knack for crawling completely inside each one of the songs he performed, and each one was a direct hit.

It would be difficult to say which of the nine songs performed at T.T. the Bear’s were the “highlights.” Stochansky opened with “Fly,” the rhythmic song which opens his most recent album Radio Fusebox. This and the two other songs from that album, “Insect” (in which Stochansky demonstrated hypnotic percussion skills on a hand drum) and “Poem for a Small Boy on an Amtrack Train,” appeared in fantastic new versions. Considering the trio of these songs, it is impossible not to notice the wide range of emotions, style, and purpose that they cover. The driving, rocking music of “Fly” forms a sharp contrast to the beautiful, quiet serenity of “Small Boy,” which contrasts with the dark, rhythmic “Insect.”

At another musician’s concert one might be satisfied with an hour of mediocre music and just those three amazing tunes, but Stochansky proves his proficiency by filling out the rest of the set with songs just as noteworthy. Stochansky presented four songs, “Magpie Hymn,” “The Wedding Song,” “Clay Pigeon,” which were first heard in the Boston area at Club Passim last month where Stochansky performed them live on solo guitar. However, it was with the backing of a band that the songs became really fleshed out and powerful. In these and a majority of other songs Stochansky played acoustic guitar, reveling in the sometimes startling chromatics and creative rhythms. Stochansky’s high and expressive voice is a perfect foil to the heft of his music and a perfect compliment to his poetic lyrics, creating textures which fully support each song.

Rounding out the set were two songs from Stochansky’s debut album While You Slept and, like the Fusebox songs, they were presented in new, well-crafted arrangements. Stochansky rocked out on oil drum on the melodic “The Woman Who...” which contrasted to the delicate “Pass the Wheel,” accompanied by Tom Beckham on bowed vibraphone and keyboard. Beckham also provided impressive vibraphone and keyboard playing throughout the evening. He, along with Les Cooper (guitar and gorgeous backing vocals), Allisdair Jones (bass guitar), and Jean Martin (drums), deserve accolades for their fantastic playing, completely getting into the groove of each song and integrating their sound with Stochansky’s to produce a mesmerizing evening. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long for his new album or for his next show.