Despite a small crowd, New Jersey quartet Carlon rocked the Middle East last night in Cambridge. A lack of a massive turnout can drive some bands to lethargy and suck away their energy, but these guys played relentlessly. Carlon’s sound is a unique blend of rock, country, western, and folk, as heard on their latest LP Johari Window.

Artist: Carlon
Venue: The Middle East
Show Date: December 3, 2009
[Rating: 3.5/4]

Listening to the album, which was recorded in a warehouse, it’s difficult to imagine some of their material translating to a live show. However, Carlon delivered great live renditions during their 40-minute set as the opener for Business For Pleasure, proving they can thrive outside the recording atmosphere.

The band kicked off their set with the mellow "Have a Window". The harmonies between lead guitarist Ryan McGlynn and rhythm guitarist Michael McWilliams were spot on, despite the lack of the slightly haunting vocal sound that pervades their album. They followed up with more tracks from Johari Window: "Red Rover", "Mixed Messages", and "Rosie". Most impressive was how McWilliams and bass player Jared Pollack pulled double instrument duty on some songs; putting their guitars aside mid-song to beat a tambourine for a few bars.

It’s nice to see a band put in the effort to recreate their recorded tracks as best they can, like on the song "Cantaloupe". Their performance of this tune brought some surprising instruments to the stage. McGlynn strapped on a sparkly accordion and Pollack traded his bass for a banjo.

Also noteworthy was McGlynn’s slide guitar solo on "Where the Driveway Ends". It would be interesting to see what he could do with more stage room, but McGlynn made the most of the small stage and delivered a dazzling solo earning appreciative whistles and applause from audience members.

Next, Carlon heads to New York City for a show in Harlem, but make sure to catch them on their next Boston trip.

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