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Concert Review: Shayfer James' 2023 Shipwreck Tour

The poster for the Shayfer James Shipwreck Tour 2023 w/ Sarah and the Safe Word and Bellwether Breaks (Photo credit: Photo City Music Hall)

The first band to perform for the night was Bellwether Breaks, a quintet of native Rochester New Yorkers that specialize in 50s and 60s rock. They performed a lot of original songs such as Peaches, The Oracle, and even a spectacular cover of About a Girl (originally done by Nirvana) - all of these songs had the crowd moving about like one of those malt shop scenes from Scooby-Doo (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, then I feel really old). In fact, there is one word that perfectly describes the entirety of their set: groovy. Between the older rock style and some cabaret influence, beautiful and powerful vocals from vocalist Elyse Coughlin, and a wild saxophone part played by their keyboardist Chris Coon, it made for an incredible set that warmed the audience up for the rest of the concert, and had everyone jamming out to the kind of music you just don't hear every single day. The lineup for Bellwether Breaks contains: drummer Dave Goebel, bassist Eugene Bisdikian, guitarist Peter Goebel, keyboardist/saxophonist Chris Coon, and vocalist Elyse Coughlin. All in all, the entire band performed very well, and also seemed to be enjoying themselves, which rubbed off on the crowd and brought a high level of energy right away for this tour!

Bellwether Breaks (photo credit: Kurt Thelen)

The second group to perform were Atlanta natives Sarah and the Safe Word, led by vocalist Sarah Rose - who, as some of you may know, was interviewed by Kurt Thelen of 89.1 The Point! Already leaving a positive impression on this amateur reporter, and having heard some of their music beforehand, there was definitely an expectation for Sarah and the Safe Word. Well, they blew past that. Their style of music-making is not one that most people would hear in their lifetime, and yet the showmanship and power of their performance was undeniable. The energy was insane, with songs like Ruby Off the Rails and You're All Scotch, No Soda putting the crowd into a trance while Sarah kept the crowd entertained even in between songs with funny quips and jabs at the current political sphere in America. One highlight especially was violinist Susy Reyes, who not only was playing a violin in a rock band, but also providing harsh and guttural screams that added a metalcore/heavy metal vibe to some of their songs. The band is made up of: drummer and backup vocalist Carlos Gonzales, keyboardist and backup vocalist Beth Ballinger, guitarist and backup vocalist Kienan Dietrich, bassist and backup vocalist Maddox Reksten, violinist and harsh vocalist Susy reyes, and main vocalist Sarah Rose. An absolutely incredible performance by this band, if you ever get the chance to check out a live performance - it's basically guaranteed entertainment.

Sarah and the Safe Word (photo credit: Kurt Thelen)

Finally, last but not least, was the headliner of the show: New York native Shayfer James himself. An indie artist, Shayfer James is mostly independent, and as such he had to hire two others to provide backing music as he played keyboard. So, Carlos Gonzales and Kienan Dietrich from Sarah and the Safe Word came back out on stage and performed with James, to everyone's delight. Self-described as a mix between "pop, cabaret, classical, soul, and rock..." (according to his personal website) you could in fact feel the influence of all of these different genres, as his music went from slow and haunting ballads like Welcome Back Misery to what can only be described as "dark bar-room rock" music that had everyone at Photo City Music swaying in their spots. The lights and effects also contributed to the performance, and overall it became evident that the audience was mesmerized and entranced, as if put under a spell by his music. By the time the set had finished and the concert had concluded, it was like the spell had finally broken, and everyone woke up from their slumber. I personally became an instant fan of the hauntingly dark yet beautiful tones used by Shayfer James, and once again he provides a style of music that you just don't hear everyday.

This concert was an absolute blast, and for $15 tickets (though I got in free for doing an interview) it was definitely worth it! Everyone seemed to have a great time, including the performers, and it was a night of entertainment and art that I doubt anyone would forget for years to come!

The Photo City Music Hall stage, set up with gear from bellwether Breaks (photo credit: Kurt Thelen)

89.1 The Point's Kurt Thelen with (most) of Sarah the Safe word, minus the bass player and drummer (photo credit: Kurt Thelen)

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