DOUG KEITH @ BOWERY BALLROOM

It’s always illuminating to discover the music of a longtime sideman when left to their own devices. At best, it’s an opportunity to hear what songwriting choices they make, what style and voice they inhabit, and hear a musician often relegated to an accompaniment role come into their own.

Such is the case with Douglas Keith, an accomplished New York-based songwriter and solo artist in his own right, but one many people — including myself — first came to know as the guitarist and bassist behind singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Keith’s fantastically versatile playing added new textural depth and a more epic scope to her intimate songs in concert; on stage, there’s a true musical kinship.

But with his album, Pony, Douglas Keith not only reintroduces himself as a frontman, but delivers his best work yet.

Doug Keith plays at Bowery Ballroom in New York, NY on March 19, 2014.
Doug Keith plays at Bowery Ballroom in New York, NY on March 19, 2014. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

So it was cool seeing Doug Keith rip through a diverse set of new songs at the Bowery Ballroom — along with Megafaun’s Brad and Phil Cook, and fellow SVE bandmate Zeke Hutchins (all of whom play on Pony). Keith ably tackled “Pure Gold In The ’70s” — a brooding synth-driven song that builds to a scorching guitar solo courtesy of one J. Mascis on the album — with some glorious solos and noise of his own. And elsewhere, showed off his songcraft and his dusky voice with rustic folk-rockers full of pastoral country trappings — the crisp acoustic guitar arpeggios, the steady pulse of bass, and swirling organ. The show felt like a celebratory moment in the spotlight, and a snapshot of friends playing music together.

For more photos, visit Flickr.