Doug Keith @ Bowery Ballroom

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.)

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.

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.

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