Nearly every story written about a band called Railbird - and there have been more than a few – has intimated that the brilliance and originality of their sound places them either on the brink, verge, or cusp of huge success. They have been anointed The Next Indie Band Deserving a Huge Mainstream Following.

There’s no mistaking the band’s beautiful thunder – it’s always only been a question of how far away their lightning transition to wider success might lie.

The band’s every-Wednesday-in-June residency at The Living Room (which ends June 30th) narrowed the gap to nil.

Simultaneous thunder and lightning, like clockwork, every Wednesday at 9. If you were there, you witnessed it. If not, don’t be surprised by how quickly their sound reaches you. (A matter of seconds, if you open this new window, scroll down, hit the play button, and let Sarah Pedinotti’s voice reel you in. The current page stays open in a tab.)

Railbird’s music can be as insistent and hard-edged as Limousine, their high-adrenaline closer last Wednesday… or as vulnerable and fragile as Sarah Pedinotti’s whispered opening to Not Alone, a song that skips consciousness and heads directly for the spine.

These tracks – great as they are – only give you an approximation of Railbird’s current sound.

If you want to hear what Railbird sounds like, you’ve got to go see them live. It’s not that their recordings don’t do the band justice; they do. It’s just that Railbird, as a band, moves forward and changes things up at the speed of light. Immediately after a CD or EP is recorded and released, it fossilizes. It freezes the band at a precise moment in time, but in no way represents what you’ll hear at the next show. By the time their recorded sound reaches you, Railbird has moved a few more miles down their musical road.

Neither you nor I nor the band knows where that road leads. Railbird’s historic challenge is to define the genre of their music – or perhaps the genres spanned. They’ve settled, for the moment, on calling themselves a “Psychedelic Roots” band. That works, because no one knows what a “Psychedelic Roots” band is, let alone what it should sound like. But – in approach, rather than specifics – Railbird live evokes Jefferson Airplane’s extended jam shows of the late 60’s: if you can manage to tear your eyes away from the charismatic singer at the center of it all, you’ll discover remarkable, inventive musicians doing far more than merely backing the vocals.

It’s worth noting that once upon a time, Railbird was known as The Sarah Pedinotti Band.

Partly in recognition of the talent which surrounds her on stage, partly in recognition that some of those players had changed, and partly in recognition of the inability of the average person to retain – let alone spell – Pedinotti, the band became Railbird after a brief flirtation with the idea of calling themselves The Raptors.

The current lineup, which has been in place for quite some time:

• Chris Carey is, bar none, the most amazingly musical drummer one could ever hope to hear. In performance, his arms arc gracefully on their way to the beat; his fills and phrasing are an endless source of surprise. He provides a solid layer of textured foundation for Railbird’s sound.

• Lead guitarist Chris Kyle is one of Railbird’s prime movers, changing and advancing the band’s sound every show. The new riffs and rhythms the intense guitarist brings to established Railbird songs are transformative. Chris is locked in mortal battle with his guitar, constantly coaxing it for something more, something different, something new.

• If you’re going to call yourself a psychedelic roots band, you’re going to need someone who personifies the concept. That would be the occasionally top-hatted Ben Davis, the world’s first and only psychedelic roots bassist. Ben is incredible, diving deeply into his bass line, accenting and expanding each note through body language. He could easily be mistaken for an audience cutaway shot from “Woodstock” or “Monterey Pop.”

• To Ben’s left, disguised as a normal person, is James Gascoyne, whose rhythm guitar knits the Railbird players together. Previously, James played drums and bass in a jazz and electronica musical collaboration known as le RUBB. The electronic effects evoking psychedelia in current Railbird music may have been smuggled in by James. In any case, he’s hardly as innocent as he looks.

• Jeremy Gustin produced and mixed the most recent Railbird EP and is co-producing the band’s next full length album. He’s a brave guy who dares add percussion to a band that already has the spectacular Chris Carey behind the drums. Jeremy surely understands the serious risk of becoming the band’s Linda McCartney, but the odd thing is… the dual percussion works, and works well.

• Then there’s that voice. There are no words to describe it, and anyway, the last thing Sarah Pedinotti needs at the moment is another laudatory review. She has fistfuls of them already from every newspaper, music blog, and amateur or professional critic within a seventy-five-mile radius of her hometown of Saratoga Springs, New York. She is the darling of Albany’s listener-supported radio station. She has fans within the music industry, fans from other bands, and fans in New York City who run clubs. In addition to The Living Room, Railbird has played The Bowery Ballroom, Rockwood Music Hall, and, back when they were still The Sarah Pedinotti Band, Joe’s Pub. The unanimous consensus at the end of every review, article, blog post, and live performance, on radio, on the internet, or in a club: Sarah is one of a kind.

We expect to see the lightning before we hear the thunder.

We expect our bands to tour “behind” new albums to introduce and support new music as it is released. But – as noted previously, Railbird is moving far too fast to honor that tradition. Their debut CD and two follow-up EP’s of new material are exceptional – but, strictly speaking, already out of date. When Railbird performs a classic Sarah Pedinotti song like “Empty House” or “Rain-Colored Highway” from Sarah’s “City Bird” CD (2007), long-time listeners are twice startled: first when they recognize the old song in its new incarnation, then again by the band’s willingness and ability to re-imagine, reshape, restructure, and experiment.

The Living Room was pretty crowded on June 2nd. On June 9th, it was tough to find a seat. By the 16th, it bordered on the claustrophobic. On the 23rd, the house was packed and wildly enthusiastic.

Lucky you: this year, June has five Wednesdays. You’ve got two choices: stay where you are and count the time till the sound of Railbird reaches you… or head for the source – The Living Room this Wednesday at 9. If you miss the final Living Room “residency” show, you might be able to catch up to the band as it bolts for Rockwood Music Hall on July 8. After that… no guarantees. You may have to make do with the sound of distant thunder until Railbird returns.

Or hope that the excellent DreamBig Media Group creates more videos like this one:

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