Around the Island

Damn Tall Buildings headline bluegrass show

Sylvester Manor’s 2020 Concert Series kicks off with the annual January Bluegrass show on Jan. 18 featuring Brooklyn’s Damn Tall Buildings. The concert will take place in Shelter Island School’s auditorium at 7:30 p.m. 

In 2013 four students at Boston’s Berklee College of Music took their instruments to nearby street corners and jammed for hours on old bluegrass and blues songs, traditional fiddle tunes, and eventually their own original music. In their early days, Damn Tall Buildings didn’t rehearse — they busked — which means they played in the street or other public places for donations.

According to damntallbuildings.com, primary vocalist and lyricist Max Capistran’s singing recalls old blues and The Band-style roots-rock, whereas Sasha Dubyk’s time studying musical theater is evident in her rich vocal tone and soulful flair. The interplay between Avery Ballotta’s fiddle and Jordan Alleman’s banjo brings stratospheric dimension to the churning rhythm section of Capistran’s guitar and Dubyk’s bass. The band’s harmony singing is tight without being too slick –— they sound like four individual voices joined together in celebration, not a perfectly polished machine.

The band still radiates the energy of a ragtag crew of music students playing bluegrass on the street, but anchors that energy through their instrumental chops, their strong songwriting, and their varied influences that stretch beyond bluegrass, even beyond American roots music altogether. Their lyrics find beauty and glory in the mundane, workaday struggle of everyday life: time keeps passing, you don’t like your job, you drink too much, you laugh with your friends, you search for a home, and you dream about what else might be out there. You carry on. This is what Damn Tall Buildings sings about, what they seek to share with their audience. Whether sharing lead vocals and instrumental solos or blending their voices into high-spirited harmony, Damn Tall Buildings are a tight unit that contains more than the sum of its parts. 

Don’t miss what has become an annual post-holiday Shelter Island tradition. Reserved seats for Damn Tall Buildings are $30-$45 and are available for purchase by visiting sylvestermanor.org/music or by calling the Manor at 631-749-0626.