Benjamin Cartel makes the holidays cool at the Icehouse


As someone who doesn’t get into the Christmas spirit, most holiday shows have very little appeal to me. But when I found out that a band I consider “cool” would participate in one, and peeked at the headliner, I found enough “coolness” to check it out. Turns out, this was the second “annual” holiday show held by Brooklyn’s Benjamin Cartel at the Icehouse.

After a brief intro by Benjamin, Ryan Traster and band took the stage. He just released his new EP “Broken Pop”. He joked about having to walk one mile to the Icehouse after spending some time in Nashville and being glad to be here, but cold. Each band had to perform a Davie Bowie cover. Traster selected “Velvet Goldmine” and despite not feeling worthy “Get ready for a shit show” he warned, in my book nailed it. I liked the range of styles in the short set from almost bluesy to some pretty heavy sounding rock in the last number (could not read the song’s name on the list, sorry)

Set List: Lucia / Nouveau / Cruel / Social Gods / Guru / Velvet Goldmine / ?


Benjamin Cartel was up next. He certainly is not the type of artist who just plays his songs and gets off stage. Throughout the set he interacted and bantered with the crowd. One of the songs played was just recorded a couple of days ago. Unlike his duo KaiserCartel which is folk, his solo persona is indie rock and his songs are complex and layered without being difficult. They are actually quite catchy with lively ones intermixed with what Cartel called “High School Slow Dance” numbers. His new EP is called: “Money and Love” . Cartel’s rendition of Rebel, Rebel was well done. Overall a very interesting artist that I will have to listen to a bit more.

Set List: Julia / House Cat / Coast / Sweet / Starlight / Down / Not The Man / Rebel, Rebel / Rockaway

Closing out the night were The Melismatics. I was expecting an acoustic set by Ryan and Pony but found all 4 members on stage with the acoustic part being the guitars. Cartel introduced them as: “The coolest band in the world, and not just because we are staying at their house.” Well, they are certainly in my top 10 of cool bands, and since I have never stayed at their house, so there must be something to it. Their set was lively as usual but a touch softer at the same time. They closed out the night with their version of Bowie’s “Golden Years”

All in all, it was the kind of holiday show for the rock kid in all of us that makes me forget for a while that I am channeling the Grinch.

Set List: Divided Devotions / Celebrate Your Heartbeat / Close 2 The Vest / Hate To Say It / Like A Puzzle / If You Want War / Low / Smoke And Mirrors / Your Love Is A Poison / Digging Deep / Rising Tide / Golden Years