When Dave Michaels, radio DJ at 97.7 WEXT, first met Jocelyn and Chris Arndt, the siblings from Fort Plain were performing at a hometown fair, where they played mostly covers but showed unusual talent for their young age.
“Chris was 12. Jocelyn was 13. I remember when they came out onstage … I went, ‘Wow.’ I saw this spark,” Michaels said, introducing the Arndts and their band before a sold-out show at Caffè Lena on Sunday night.
Jocelyn Arndt (vocals, keyboards) is now 23, and her younger brother Chris (guitar, vocals) is 21. Since they first caught the eye of Michaels, who agreed to give their material radio time once they recorded something original, the blues-rocking siblings now get airplay on 250 radio stations around the country and have released five albums, including their latest, “Go.”
The Caffè Lena show was a homecoming of sorts: filled with friends and family. A documentary crew moved around the edges of the crowd, filming for EDGEtv, a California-based entertainment network. The Arndts first played the folk venue in high school.
“This is our first ever sold-out show,” Jocelyn said near the start of the show, saying the band had toured to California twice and back so far by car. “We haven’t been home in a while and it’s really awesome to play for you guys.”
The sound was about as loud as the folk venue gets, with drummer David Bourgeois (also the band’s manager and producer) toned down but still hard hitting, Chris ripping retro-rock leads on electric guitar, and longtime bassist Kate Sgroi adding groove. Jocelyn proved a dynamic front woman, exuding self-confidence as her voice veered from an ethereal whisper to a louder, emphatic roar.
They opened with “Footprints on the Moon,” a jaunty song from last year’s “Go” album, and followed with a scorching cover of Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet,” with Jocelyn exorcising some demons on the fiery vocals, drawing emphatic cheers at the end. “Jagged” was powered by a muscular guitar solo, and “Because of You” started out soft on keyboard before veering into an explosive jam interlude with a drum breakdown.
“One Kiss” was an angsty tune with a hard edge, written while the Ardnts were in middle school. “Bad Business” was a more delicate ballad, sung by both siblings. “Hot,” “You Make Me Feel at Home” and the not-yet recorded “Kill and the Cure” were spiky, edgy tunes powered by dynamic shifts. The 90-minute-or-so set concluded with “Red Stops Traffic,” the pair’s biggest hit to date, along with Tracy Chapman cover “Give Me One Reason” and encore “Shame.”
Opener Vinny Michaels, a singer-songwriter from Amsterdam, admitted he’s more country than blues, but he aptly judged the crowd to be more rock than country and adjusted his set accordingly.
Accompanied by guitarist Pete Morehouse, the blue-eyed country crooner kicked things off with a Joe Cocker cover, “Feelin’ Alright,” and played a new Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired original, “Shakin,’” which covered familiar country-music territory of dogs, trucks and drinking in bars. “Knock You Down” was a week-old tune about taming a beautiful love interest. He covered Vaughan on “Pride and Joy” and closed with probably his best song of the night: the pop-country and catchy “A Shot of Country.”