Dream Syndicate – Review – 1/20/24

Written by on February 1, 2024

Dream Syndicate – Review – 1/20/24 – by Tara Davis.

I wanted to go down to the City to see The Dream Syndicate, one of my all-time favorite bands –ever. I know, for anyone who knows me, admittedly I have quite a few all-time favorites. Still.

I had missed them and regretted it when they played the Bowery Ballroom in the fall of 2022. At the time I had been eying the show for months, knowing it would be a good one. But sometimes a trip to NYC for a show seems indulgent; the ticket price might be reasonable but add on the train and a hotel stay, etc., and well, suffice to say I didn’t go. The reviews of the show afterwards were that the show was legendary, not that The Dream Syndicate are legendary (which they are) but the show itself. Damn!

To quote the Butthole Surfers, “..a funny thing about regret is that it’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done.” Somehow this has been a bit of a theme in my life. A few of my life choices may have seemed ill advised on paper but mostly I don’t regret a single moment of those choices. My regrets are more about the road not taken, the shows I missed (Tom Waits in a tiny club in Boston comes to mind), the risks I didn’t have the courage to take.

When they announced two shows in 2024, one in New York City on 1/20 and one the following week in LA, I was determined not to make the same mistake again. I connected with some friends, we made plans and got tickets. And I’m here to tell you I was treated to one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen.

We were surprised when we got to the venue (Knitting Factory at Baker Falls in the East Village) by the intimate setting. Long-time friends and occasional collaborators Vicki Peterson and John Cowsill opened, accompanied by another friend Paul (TFO) Allen and they were delightful. Vicki acknowledged the vibe might be a little different than what the audience was expecting, “I know you’re all here to see Dream Syndicate and you’re like, what is this?” The set featured a number of songs written by Cowsill brothers who are no longer with us, and a song from Action Skulls complete with the story of how the band got its name. Beautiful harmonies, charming stories- I don’t know the Cowsills, Action Skulls or the Continental Drifters well at all but that set left me wanting to hear more.

Dream Syndicate’s set practically defies description. All four are incredible musicians, but the sheer power, transcendence and intensity of the band was astonishing. Steve Wynn is the consummate front man, delivering the lyrics of these well-loved (at least in some circles), often broodingly dark songs with intention and passion. Jason Victor, who plays as though he’s possessed by a psychedelic demon is simply one of the most amazing guitar players I’ve ever had the privilege to hear and see. The interplay between the two of them was incredible – two seasoned yet inspired musicians engaging in a psychedelic conversation in front of a rapt audience. The sheer joy of playing together and love for each other was evident in their broad smiles and stage presence; at one point bassist Mark Walton (“the new guy”) was playing while draped over Steve’s shoulder. Vicki Peterson and John Cowsill graced the stage again providing backup vocals for Damian (from the most recent Dream Syndicate album), and John Cowsill added harmonica to the mix from the audience for a couple of numbers before joining them on stage for the closer, the classic psychedelic freak-out John Coltrane Stereo Blues. The set was a nicely balanced mix of old and new material with a couple of covers included by request/ for fun (Don’t Fear the Reaper!) For anyone who was a fan back in the day- the band is as good as it ever was on the new albums- run don’t walk to get your hands on these if you don’t own them already. If you’ve never heard of The Dream Syndicate- check them out- you won’t be disappointed.

So, 2024 is off to a great start in so many ways and I’m wondering if I’ve already seen my two best shows of the year. The second installment of the Beat Shop’s 20th Anniversary on 1/14 was a barn burner as predicted. Keep your eye out for the next show in the series coming up soon…

My advice for 2024- get off the couch and venture out of your comfort zone. Take a little risk. Tell your friends and family how much they mean to you. Support local/ live music. Go to shows. To quote one of my favorite movies of all time, L-I-V-E… live!

Hope to see you at a show…



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