Le Poisson Rouge – NYC – May 20, 2023
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
I recently wrote a review about sibling musical groups after attending a performance by Larkin Poe, an American roots rock band fronted by sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell. I was intrigued by the unique connection of siblings and how that bond is creatively expressed while working together as a musical team. I again had the opportunity to witness this special relationship while attending a show by the group BAILEN at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge. BAILEN, an alternative folk rock/pop trio, is comprised of fraternal twins David and Daniel and younger sister Julia Bailen. These skilled instrumentalists, songwriters and singers have come by their talents through nature and nurture, having been born and raised by classical musician parents. All three Bailen children began playing music and songwriting at a young age, with David ultimately choosing drums, Daniel gravitating to the bass and Julia focusing on guitar.
While the twins initially started a band on their own, after adding Julia to the group the first show as BAILEN was in 2013. Over the past decade BAILEN has developed into a tight-knit trio, whose voices weave together creating incredible three-part harmonies. Hailing from NYC, BAILEN had the good fortune to take on a residency at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall in 2015, followed by several years opening for various touring artists, all before releasing their debut album, Thrilled to Be Here, in 2019. Though all of BAILEN’S music highlights their gorgeous harmonies, Thrilled to Be Here leans towards more of an alternative rock vibe, while their new album, Tired Hearts, released on May 5th, showcases a softer, more delicate side of their voices.
Having recently discovered BAILEN on Instagram (and having not delved into their bio), I didn’t have great knowledge of their devout fanbase prior to attending their May 20th performance. I was under the impression that the band was relatively “new” to many others, like they were to me. However, the crowd at Le Poisson Rouge proved me to be quite incorrect in that assumption. Le Poisson Rouge was filled with eager fans who enthusiastically awaited the trio’s arrival onstage. Excitement buzzed through the crowd, mostly young adults (as are the Bailen siblings), mixed with a smattering of more “seasoned” individuals. The gentleman next to me had traveled from Philadelphia for the show (having already attended the Philadelphia performance) and had been following the band since 2017 and the group of young woman in front of me stood at the edge of the stage bubbling over with excitement as they discussed what songs they hoped to hear.
Cheers erupted the moment the trio entered the stage with a casual, playing-for-a-bunch-of-friends vibe. There was no glitz and glamour, no fancy show….just three incredibly talented musicians and vocalists ready to share the work they’ve created as a family. Performing at center stage with her guitar and appearing as the group’s unofficial leader, Julia presented as calm, serious and focused. Beside her on bass, Daniel, displayed a sense of greater levity, though equally focused on his musicianship, while David, passionately and enthusiastically performed behind his drum kit. The evening opened with the beautifully soulful “Shadows” from Tired Hearts, followed by the incredibly touching “Rose Leaves” and the powerful “Something Tells Me,” both from Thrilled to be Here. The hour and a half set covered most of the songs from the new album, including “These Bones,” “Relic,” “BRCA (Nothing Takes Me Down),” “Nothing Left to Give” and the album’s title number. Mixed in were additional songs from their debut album, including “Your Love Is All I Know,” “Going on a Feeling” and the evening’s final number “Not Gonna Take Me.”
The crowd remained equally enthralled from one song to the next, singing along and watching the trio with a sense of endearment. The connection that the band has with their fans was evidenced by personal information Julia shared with the crowd. Before performing “BRCA (Nothing Takes Me Down),” Julia expressed that she wrote the song as she carries the BRCA gene (the gene associated with an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer), and that their mother is a breast cancer survivor. This personal connection was again on display when Julia shared that she’d written another song about her depression. Sharing these experiences seems fitting for a band, whose music is heartfelt and personal, whose interpersonal connection is bound by shared life experiences and emotions, and whose exquisite harmonies weave together like only those who share a familial vocal quality.
Watching BAILEN perform at Le Poisson Rouge I understood why this trio has created such a devout fanbase and is sure to generate an even larger crowd. It’s the beauty of their music but also the beauty of their bond…a sister with two big brothers working together, taking care of each other and creating their success. How harmonious is that!