The crowd at Che’s Lounge sang along Saturday night, as brothers Dave and Rob Myers brought a cornucopia of music and nostalgia to the underground coffee shop in the alley off Main street in Vineyard Haven.
Many of the Island’s seasoned musicians showed up at Che’s; for them, it was a step back to the 1990s and a time when the Island was home to a number of vibrant live bands that played regularly enough that audiences became fans, buying locally-produced albums and memorizing lyrics.
Two decades ago, the Myers brothers played with many of those bands and stood tall among the loyal fan base that grew around them. A generation of young, Vineyard-bred musicians included Strange Men, Kaustik Deathbed, TCD and Inskirts. The long-gone Wintertide Coffeehouse in Vineyard Haven was often filled to capacity for their shows.
The Island is proudest of a band called Kahoots, a forward-thinking, genre-straddling band of which Rob is a member and driving creative force. Kahoots is still performing after 14 years, though the band has changed its lineup of talented musicians. Kahoots performed at the Middle East in Cambridge at the end of last year after finishing a new album, called We Ride!, and the band is currently working on another LP.
While the Meyers brothers are each accomplished musicians in their own right, their appearance together brought a sense of a family reunion, tightening up a web of songwriters, singers and musicians. The brothers were playful with the audience, knowing many by name.
The audience included Charlie Esposito of Vineyard Haven, a part of the eponymous TCD, who played the synthesizer as well as producing and recording for many Island bands over the years. The way the Myers brothers played and sang at Che’s Saturday night was more alike than different. Their guitar style is built on hot, fast-changing chord progressions that send their left hands up and down the fretboard. The right hand, pinching a flat pick, is rhythmic as a drum, often using the upswing as much as the typical downstroke that defines most contemporary rhythm guitar. Their voices are melodic and make use of a full range, reaching a falsetto for one phrase and then dropping down only a few bars later to a tough, fist-fighting, masculine low range. Their lyrics are sharp, poetic and smart, often toying with plays on words and rhyme schemes.
The show began with Dave performing solo. At 40, he is the older brother and has spent much of the last decade off-Island, managing nonprofit community radio stations, more recently one in Provincetown and another in California. He currently lives in Wellfleet and hosts a morning music show called The Learning Curve, on WOMR, 92.1 FM.
His opening set included an ode to emotional frustration called Acid Heart. “I have a raging question/that I forgot to mention,” he sang. He followed this with a favorite cover of his, an Elvis Costello song called New Lace Sleeves, a song that he’d never performed on the Island before. “She is no angel, he is no saint.” At the end of his set, Dave presented a foot-tapping anthem to global warming called Fruition, with oblique references to rising sea levels like, “Holding hands and walking West.”
During the intermission, Mr. Esposito’s wife, Becky, stepped over the musicians’ equipment several times to retrieve their infant son Adagio, who, perhaps out of a genetic pull toward music, kept running away from her to pluck the strings of Dave’s fully-amplified electric bass.
Rob, 38, is a familiar face around the Island, not just in relation to Kahoots but also as a carpenter, stage performer and full-time resident. After Dave finished, he stepped aside and picked up the bass, and became backup as his younger brother began his own set with a slow strumming guitar. He silenced the conversational audience when his voice came in, filtered nasal and metallic through an old-fashioned metal kazoo. The audience was frozen, remaining motionless as he sang. Christmas lights adorning a tree outside provided a haunting, subtle backlight to the mesmerizing performance.
The familial connection was obvious to everyone present, and Rob acknowledged this after sharing a glance with his brother. Turning to the audience, he said: “When we were growing up, we had our superheroes. I was Lightning Flash and he was Supersonic Man.” The audience, feeling like part of the family at this point in the show, greeted the non sequitur with laughter.
As the show closed, Dave announced that it was not the end of a one-night performance, but the beginning of more music to come, and the audience cheered. Sentiment in the room was surprisingly strong, considering that this was the debut of the brothers playing as a duo, but was also perhaps a testament to their legacy on the Island.
After the show, Mr. Esposito was nostalgic. He said, “It was cool hearing their music, hearing some of their old tunes I helped them record. Those lyrics are stuck in my head.”