Show Recap: Peasant at World Cafe Live

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There should be laws against excessive iPhone usage at small, seated shows. World Café Live’s Upstairs venue has a quiet, settled ambiance to it: the Christmas lights, the guttering candles, the muted chatter. It’s not the sort of space that encourages much beyond polite clapping, even when it’s packed. On Tuesday night, with the room barely half-full of indifferent and furiously texting patrons, Peasant—the alias of Doylestown singer-songwriter Damien DeRose—faced a challenge just in winning the crowd’s attention.

As it was, DeRose had to fight for recognition for the entirety of his 30-minute set, with brief interludes of respectful silence when the band’s volume dipped below conversation levels. “These are new songs,” he said at one point. “But it’s not like any of you look like you’ve been to a Peasant show before. It’s different, you just have to believe me.” If the crowd heard him, they gave no sign.

DeRose normally packages his brand of simple, romantic Americana as an acoustic, solo affair, which explains why he seemed so uncomfortable with a three-piece band backing him and an electric guitar in his hands. “I’ve never had a band before,” DeRose said. “Not sure if I like it.” It’s true; they could’ve used more rehearsal time (after new song “Glory Bound,” Derose quipped, “that one’s bound for a little more practice”), but overall the music was better for the added instrumentation (drums, bass and keyboards).

A second vocalist might have improved things further. DeRose’s wistful voice is lovely by itself, but harmonies could lift it to commanding new heights. As for the crunch of the electric guitar, which DeRose declared “fun,” he’d be better off without it. It only served to muddle, and the tunes Peasant played electric were the least interesting. When he adjusts to sharing the stage, that could change, but for now Peasant is still at his most affecting when he’s standing alone under a wash of yellow light, strumming an acoustic. “We’re Good,” from his most recent release, 2010’s Shady Retreat, was a stand-out.

“Did you ever pine for somebody?” DeRose asked at the opening of his set, prefacing a sorrowful, lilting song. But if he was pining for anything on Tuesday, it was probably an enthusiastic—or at least considerate—audience. Here’s hoping he gets that next time he plays in Philly. Peasant deserves it.

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  • Monkies3

    Funny you should mention this.  I have been to events at both the Wilmington and Philly locations and people are just rude.  Perhaps it’s the fact that patrons pay more for food and alcohol than they do for the entertainment.  We are required to turn off/down our cellphones and cease discussion at the movie theater but it is not a requirement for live shows??   BULLOCKS!

  • peasant

    Hey this is Peasant, I don’t normally comment on what people write about my shows or my music, but I felt that I needed to clear something up.  First off, the part about me saying “you all dont look like you’ve been to a show befpre” isn’t what I said.  I said, these are all new songs, but I doubt many of you know my old songs, so they’d be new also.”  I say this a lot at shows where I feel like I’m playing in front of a new audience, and it’s something I mean completely lightheartedly, same with when i said “im not sure i like it” about playing with my band.  I have a sarcastic sense of humor and I guess it can be  a little confusing if you don’t know me, but it usually gets laughs and I guess it just didn’t work so well this time with the author.  Also, the song is called “bound for glory”, and the “bound for practice” was also a little joke.  We are just working out our kinks as a band, and frankly I don’t mind playing in front of only a few people seeing as we really aren’t ready for the limelight completely. we will be though, and i love my new band, and my new material, I can’t wait to release it, and play more shows as we get better and learn all of the new material.  It’s rather daunting to form a full a band and teach them a whole album when I’ve never done it before, but with a little humor, and not taking myself too seriously, I have no doubts I’ll make something someone will enjoy =D.
    thanks for covering the show
    damien aka peasant

  • peasant

    also, i really didn’t feel like i was “fighting” for recognition, 50% of the audience were my friends and some new fans who bought albums after the show, it was just a little show for me and my band to get our feet wet playing a real venue together, i don’t take it incredibly seriously if people don’t want to listen at a show, thats their right, and i certainly don’t ever feel angry or upset if paying show-goers choose to talk at a show they paid to enjoy