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Chris Batten and the Woods release "Live From The Bowery Ballroom, NYC"


By Gary Wien

originally published: 11/22/2023

Chris Batten and the Woods release "Live From The Bowery Ballroom, NYC"

"The Woods may be going away for a little bit, but it ain't over and we'll see you soon."

Those were the parting words from an interview with Chris Batten in October 2009, just before Chris Batten & The Woods were about to play their final show at Maxwell's in Hoboken.  True to his word, the band did indeed return - albeit over a decade later - with new music, celebrated by a concert at the Bowery Ballroom that led to a 4 song live EP released on November 22, 2023.

Chris Batten & The Woods Live From The Bowery Ballroom, NYC captures the band performing a mix of fan favorites and new tracks.  And the band sounds terrific.  They were always one of the bands that I thought never got the credit they deserved.  Always an incredible band live, this EP makes me yearn to see them live on stage once again.

Even though Chris expected the band to return someday, I wasn’t as sure.  I’ve seen enough local acts have their moments in time and then go their separate ways as careers and family lives take over.  So when The Woods released the “Do It All Over” single in 2022, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed.  The song seemed like the continuation of the sound they had created for themselves roughly two decades earlier.

Chris says the band members all have their daytime careers (Chris works in advertising) and has ‘collectively come up for air’ after becoming adults and moving into a different stage of life.  Married with two boys (10 and 6), Chris feels he and his bandmates are in a great place right now.



 
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“Personally, I'm just so grateful that we've hit this moment where the five of us can still make time to do this together and keep pushing it further along,” said Chris.

Over the years, they’ve lost, added and even welcomed back members—leading to their current 5-man, 3-guitar attack. The new line-up not only brought new music (this year’s “The Ceiling” and 2022’s “Do It All Over”)—it pumped a shot of adrenaline into the band’s best known songs that they’ve been playing for almost two decades.

Chris Batten & The Woods celebrated the release of their first new music in 15 years with a near-capacity show at NYC’s legendary Bowery Ballroom in 2022. The show was full of friends, fans and a band that was ready to step into the shoes of all of the heroes they saw play on that iconic stage before them.

Before the set, Chris slipped the sound team a hard drive to record the show, in hopes they would catch something good.

“After the show, I kind of just threw the drive in a drawer and forgot about it,” Chris recalls. “But this past summer I was showing my sons how multitrack recording works - so we threw it up and listened to some of the songs I remembered us playing particularly well.”

What they heard was pretty good...so Chris shared it with the band and they settled on 4 songs that not only capture the energy of their live show—but also provide a snapshot of the band, as they stand now, with songs that have evolved so much over time and now stand in their best, most realized form.

“The way we play these songs now is the way I wish we could have played them back when we first started!” Chris says, “These are the definitive arrangements...in fact, we planned to re-record these exact songs next year - but after hearing the raw tracks of this show, we immediately knew this was how we should reintroduce them to the world.”

Chris Batten and the Woods release "Live From The Bowery Ballroom, NYC"



 
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“Since that last show at Maxwell's - I've been fortunate to have decent shows sort of pop up from time to time, so it's kept me active, writing and always thinking of ways to keep things interesting,” Chris added. “However, after a while I really wanted to do something bigger than just myself.”

When the band ended and the original lineup moved on, Dustin and Chris kept working on songs and ideas. There weren’t any grand plans at the time; this was mostly making music for themselves.

“Yeah, it wasn't over...but it took a while to get to where we are now,” Chris laughs. “I knew Nick through my brother-in-law, Stroube and he joined pretty quickly to start filling things out at my solo shows. From there the band re-formed organically. We got offered a show, so Stroube jumped on bass and their old friend Greg (who I had watched play for a while) came in on drums. Since then we've been writing songs and playing them live in various arrangements - and working to make the older songs our own. We got such a rush from putting out ‘Do It All Over’ in 2022 that we decided to focus on putting out new music this year like ‘The Ceiling’ and this live EP, instead of shows...those will come in 2024.”

There’s a belief that the band has reached a new phase in their development over the last two years and the EP backs it up.  The band intends to head back to the studio to finish the two new tracks, which will hopefully be released sometime this winter.  More new songs and possibly more live shows are in the future as well.

With such a gap between the first iteration of the band and the current one, I asked Chris what are his favorite songs to play from the past.

“Funny, but it's the two songs that kick off this EP… ’Driver' and ‘Gone For Good’. Two songs that I never particularly thought sounded good live, but in this new 5-person format with Dustin and Nick on guitar - we've been able to reimagine and expand our songs so much that I feel these two songs have finally achieved their real form,” said Chris.

“‘Driver’ always seemed to lose the energy of the set and I never thought we added anything to it live,” he continued. “But when Dustin came back into the fold, we dissected it along with a bunch of others. Stroube added a hop to bass on the chorus, Greg tightened up the drums, Nick all of a sudden started playing lap steel, Dustin got more spacey and I finally embraced playing acoustic guitar live (which I always hated and now love, haha). Now it's got this entirely new energy and went from a song that we shied away from playing live, to being the centerpiece of our set at Bowery.”

“The way we've rearranged 'Gone For Good' has shot it to the top of the ‘always on the set list’ pile...the interplay and controlled chaos of it all is just so much fun to play together and honestly, it's the best song to show what each of us are bringing to this band now,” he added.

It’s hard to recapture a moment in time, but the new EP shows that it is definitely possible.  More power to them.  Maybe the band will finally get the credit they deserve this time.



Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Upstage Magazine, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at gary@newjerseystage.com.



 
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