The New Deal Delivers Solid Run at BK Bowl as They Continue to Progress With New Drummer
The livetronica legends from Toronto returned to New York on May 29th and 30th with a pair of shows at Brooklyn Bowl. Plain and simple, it’s awesome to see the New Deal playing shows again. Many fans continue to complain about the departure of their original drummer Darren Shearer but I’m way past that. Founding members Jamie Shields and Dan Kurtz looked like they were having the time of their lives on stage. Their new drummer Joel Stouffer stayed in the pocket and laid down the bands rhythmic backbone as if he’d been doing it for years. Keyboard player Jamie Shields did what he does best; he lead the trio in and out of intricate electronica, heart pounding drum and bass, high energy house and spaced out trance. Over the course of two nights, they covered their entire spectrum of sound. When Darren left, he took his creative style and untouchable element with him. This is true, but it doesn’t mean that Shields and Kurtz should end the project they’ve worked on for nearly twenty years. I witnessed the pure emotion in their facial expressions, this is what they were put on earth to do and they know it. After all, the show must go on.
Since I saw them at Catskill Chill in September, the trio has undoubtedly stepped up their game. Originally Joel was performing with an all-electronic kit, which many people weren’t a fan of, myself included. As a drummer, I believe that that the action and tone of high-end acoustic drums cannot be recreated. I was pleased to see that Joel added a real snare drum and cymbals because it truly made a difference. In my opinion, the crack of his snare drum and crisp sound of his hi-hats immediately improved his sound. The band walked on stage and wasted no time, they started Friday off with forty minutes of pure improvisation. The first night definitely had its moments; all three of them were having a great time and feeding off the energy of the crowd. They came out swinging with aggressive, hard-hitting house. It was fast-paced and in your face. Jamie Shields led the assault with insane keyboard work that never fails to blow me away. He truly is a one-of-a-kind player, he used his signature hand signals to weave the band in and out of improvisation. He looked pleased with Joel’s playing as they hit a few huge reads perfectly. Dan Kurtz was laying down bass lines that vibrated in your spine with resonance. It was a solid first set but it wasn’t the best I’ve seen from them, I took it for what it was and had fun. One thing is for sure; it had them warmed up and pumped up to deliver an awesome second set.
After Horizon Wireless laid down some hard-hitting techno during the set-break, the New Deal took the stage once more. The second set on Friday was better than the first, like most bands that jam, that’s usually the case. They slowed it down a bit and dove into some funky electronica grooves. Shields was creating so much sound with multiple layers on multiple keyboards. He is a musician that every fan of live music should see because his playing is ridiculously unique. I watched the drums closely and was satisfied by Stouffers patience and delivery. He didn’t overplay and stayed on point with very few mistakes. During the second set, the trio locked in for extended periods of time, they looked very comfortable together. Their progression since Catskill Chill was undoubtedly evident. Fans both old and new were seriously getting down at some points in the second set. I ran into many people who had never seen them before so they had a fresh perspective. At the same time, I ran into older fans that were unable to stop comparing them to their original sound. Me, I kept an open mind throughout the night and had a good time. The first night was solid but the second night is what left a lasting impression on me.
On Saturday, the band was warmed up and ready to bring the noise. I could sense that they wanted to prove themselves to the critics and they did just that. Their dynamics were on point with natural exploration and synchronized patience. The vibe on stage was much more relaxed yet they continued to push themselves to new frontiers. From ambient down-tempo filled with blissful melodies to psychedelic tribal rhythms with jungle elements. Halfway through the first set on Saturday, I knew that I was enjoying the show better than Friday. Everything just clicked a little bit more than the previous night. The band was hitting their spots with ease and the grooves were extremely deep-rooted. At some points, I had an enormous grin stretched across my face. During a massive ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ jam, I said to my friend “the New Deal is back”, he nodded his head in agreement. Saturday night was the best show that I’ve seen from them in five years, hands down. Jamie Shields seemed to be incredibly pleased with his band mates’ playing. Dan Kurtz had his power-stance locked in for the majority of the night. Joel Stouffer remained a constant metronome, keeping the trio in almost perfect time during the second set. It left me yearning for more; I am now really looking forward to seeing them again this summer. I can only imagine how tight they’ll be in another year.
The New Deal is only going to keep getting better; their improvisation will continue to get tighter. It takes a lot of time and a ton of work to be a successful band that jams as much as they do. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and agree that Darren Shearer was a huge part in the foundation of this band. His style and skill helped build the New Deal up to what it is today, that is an absolute fact. Do I feel that he is a more creative drummer than Joel? Yes. Do I believe that his sound fit the New Deal better? Maybe. Do I think that it’s impossible to replace Darren? No. The fact of the matter is that it’s very doable and is being done. It’s completely normal to hear the outpour of skewed opinions and overcritical comments. That’s what happens when a band is forced to replace a founding member; it’s happened before and it will happen again. Anybody in the live music scene is familiar with both the Disco Biscuits and Lotus. They are two of the biggest bands in the revolving circuit of livetronica and have been for years. Both of them were given no choice but to replace their original drummers – just like the New Deal. At first, many old fans were skeptical about the changes because of their emotional attachment to those members. It’s completely understandable; both drummers have helped deliver some of the best memories that those fans have ever experienced. The thing is, both the Disco Biscuits and Lotus have carried on and continue to deliver new memorable experiences to fans. This doesn’t change the fact that people miss Sam Altman (Disco Biscuits) and Steve Clemens (Lotus) – there's no doubt that die-hard fans will remember them forever. The same exact thing goes for the New Deal. Joel Stouffer will never be able to recreate Darren Shearer's sound, nobody can. All he can do is keep playing and keep progressing, which he has been doing. Jamie Shields is a masterful musician with a music IQ that's as high as anyone in the scene. I really don’t think that he would hire a drummer that wasn’t fit to play with the New Deal. I know Joel played with Dan Kurtz in his other band; it obviously had something to do with him joining the New Deal. That’s not all though, Joel is one of the only drummers to sit-in for Darren when he broke his hand in 2011. When Darren refused to continue playing, Jamie and Dan knew that he would be the perfect replacement. The rest is pretty much history. The Brooklyn Bowl run was an indicator of things to come; they’re having a ton of fun and are ready to keep the New Deal alive. Instead of looking at the past, the band has decided to gaze into the future, and so have I.