Eric McFadden Trio
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Eric McFadden Trio

San Francisco, California, United States | INDIE

San Francisco, California, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Alternative


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Eric McFadden Trio and the Vau de Vire Society"

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that good burlesque is notoriously difficult to pull off. Well, it’s maybe not universally acknowledged by people in mediocre burlesque troupes, something that San Francisco seems to be absolutely lousy with, but it really should be. Good burlesque acts objectively look like simple things to do, and the onstage attitude of a really cool burlesque performance – sexy, aggressively coy and more than a little art-damaged – seems eminently capturable. If, at the end of the day, all it really takes to pull off is a pair of fishnets and precisely the right pose and how hard can it be?
Answer: pretty fracking hard.
When Aria Entertainment teamed up San Franciso’s Vau de Vire Society with the Eric McFadden Trio and whole host of special guests at the DNA Lounge, they put on a pretty conclusive demonstration of the correct way to do burlesque. Vau de Vire was largely born out of the Bay Area’s thriving circus arts community and comes off like a punk rock take of Cirque du Soleil if it were performed at a strip club.
The show was centered around the band, with Vau de Vire slinking DNA Lounge’s industrial-chic staircases to do their act for a song or two before retreating backstage. When onstage they were a visual treat – girls in ornately revealing gothic costume writhed along the railings, and a lithe guy in loincloth, face covered in glitter, spun three plates on sticks in each hand.
Everything Vau de Viere does looks effortless. This effortlessness is what separates the good burlesque from the bad. When it looks like the dancers are sweating, it lends an air of desperation to the act and things quickly get a little sad. Actually, that’s not quite true, things don’t just get a little sad. It’s either supremely confident or painful to watch. It’s either Vegas or community theatre – there’s no Branson, Missouri when it comes to burlesque and Vau de Vire could play The Strip like it was nothing.
This isn’t to say that when it was exclusively the band onstage, things suddenly got dull. The Eric McFadden Trio, featuring James Whiton on bass and Paulo Baldi (who also plays with Cake) on drums, is a monstrous power-trio. McFadden himself is an imposing stage presence – dreadlocks down to his chest, trademark bowler hat perched on his head, arms covered in tattoos. Wearing a dapper red shirt and unbuttoned black vest handing loose around his torso, he looks like a voodoo priest leading the band at a semi-formal vampire wedding.
Eric’s music starts from a place of punked-up swampy blues with a twinge of gothic metal, but from there quickly starts to go all over the place. The band jumps from groovy metal riffs to country rave-ups with astonishing consistency. What unites the divergent styles is both a consistent heaviness and McFadden’s virtuoso guitar playing. McFadden can play guitar like Eric Clapton if Clapton never became so famous that he could do whatever he wanted which, I guess, was to play old blues tunes with the guys he listened to when he was a teenager. When he wants to, McFadden can shred like Eddie Van Halen or do a mean Joe Walsh impression, but what’s great about the band is that, for the most part, he showed a lot of restraint. McFadden plays guitar like someone who has nothing to prove until a moment, ever so often, when he decided to teach a master class in shredding for about 30 seconds a time.
The rest of the band has similar attitude of generally laying back before flashing the audience with their outrageous instrumental mastery. Whiton and his stand-up bass are especially impressive. He managed to get a brutal tone out of his stand-up that I’ve only heard Les Claypool even come close to matching. Not only that but he did a number of things with the stand-up bass that I’ve never seen anyone even attempt before. For example , he used a wah pedal while bowing his bass. It sounded great and, on the surface, doesn’t seem like such a revelatory move – but I’ve never even heard of someone making the combination. When he took that combo and started layering counterpoint figures with a looping pedal and then throw a sea of dissonant harmonies over that, it was one of the highlights of the show.
While it was a treat every time the Vau de Vire would come back out and do a trapeze act or have someone whip roses out of another performer’s teeth from across the room, what really made the show were all the special guests. Gabby La La came out and fit her sitar so seamlessly in with the band’s sound that it begged that question as to why the sitar isn’t considered as integral to blues rock as the electric guitar. The Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin, with her shock of bright blue hair, joined Gabby on stage to duet on slow, mournful version of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi.” Stripped of its glossy production, its turns out to be a really pretty song.
Sure, it’s a ridiculous scene but it all kind of fit together as part of big, post-modern cabaret show – with one surprise coming after another. And let me just say that to make sense of a lead singer of the Go-Go’s dueling with a sitar player on a cover of a Lady Gaga song on the same stage where, only moments earlier, two girls in leather bikinis were doing a precisely choreographed dance number with a whip . . . is no small feat.

Written by Aaron Sankin - The Bay Bridged

"Eric McFadden Trio :: The Barbary- Outside Lands Music Festival, San Francisco, CA"

EMT played The Barbary every day of the fest and mostly to packed houses... EMT hit like a heatwave, a blur of unwholesome sound that took your knees out from under you. McFadden (guitar, vocals), ?ber-bassist James Whiton (a real force of nature with seemingly no end of extraordinary vision on his instrument) and drummer Doug Port wrangled flamenco, hard rock, gypsy jazz and more into an utterly cool whole. Their brute force sometimes hides what not-simple-at-all music is happening, much like the more complex bits hidden within The Stooges' raging. The swing between fierceness and hushed observation would flop in lesser hands, but with some of the strongest songwriting and playing happening in the S.F. area today EMT soared mightily. (DC) Jambase Sept. 09 - Jambase

"CD Review: Eric McFadden Trio -The Joy of Suffering"

Devilish vocals, a dirty, possessed guitar, a bass that won’t stop and rolling drum beats fill the The Joy of Suffering. Guitar master Eric McFadden, bass extraordinaire James Whiton (upright bass) and drummer Paolo Baldi (Cake) will lure you into the dark side of the mind with infectious tunes and smart, wise lyrics. From heavy metal to flamenco, this album brings various musical styles to the mix while retaining its bold, rock ‘n roll attitude. “The future is burning baby, it’s up in flames, but I don’t care I’m still headed that way…” sings McFadden in “Miranda”, a western Americana/flamenco song in which he expresses his desire to leave her while wishing her a pretty death. His “black magic realism” approach to music is eerie at first, but if you pay attention, you’ll realize it is full of hope. This CD is a must have for any music connoisseur. It is proof that rock n’ roll is still alive and kicking.
- Reno Passport

"Eric McFadden Trio/The New Up -Berkeley 3/14/09"

...For three guys they make a hellacious roar, marrying top shelf songcraft with something more bloody fingered – punk or early funk before it became domesticated, or perhaps the blues as practiced by switchblade wielders and grifters with a gift. McFadden himself, fiercely abused guitar in hand, is folklore in motion. From the waist up he looked like a Deadwood gunslinger, while his pants were surely shanghaied from a pirate. He exudes strength and mystery, shadows falling from his words as his fingers tie intricate knots. I love watching his hands move, the way they seem possessed of a life of their own, a feeling echoed in the surprise on his face when he nails something particularly stirring. McFadden, particularly on a blazingly "on" night like this one, strikes one as the guy you'd need to negotiate with at the crossroads. Oh, he's not the Devil but he knows a guy who knows a guy who knows him, and if you want that golden fiddle you'll speak to Mr. McFadden first. If Stephen King ever decides to revive his Dark Tower series, he's got a hell of a protagonist waiting right here.

Eric McFadden Trio - 03.14.09
The trio is filled out by long-time partner James Whiton (double bass) and drummer Doug Port, and together the three move like a spirit wind. Though we stood inside a neighborhood pub in navy blue Berkeley, they found ways of crawling under our skin, like a ghost in the night flicking our ears or shaking the plaster off the walls. You can see so much of this music in Whiton's noodling body and animated face, feel it in the antique haunting of his bowed bass, which shook and sometimes wept with the sadness of widows' dreams or childhood frights. When it was his fingers engaging the strings directly he produced a Titanic rumble. Whiton is as much up front much of the time as McFadden's brilliant guitar work, and the clash of their streams makes for exciting listening/viewing. Port is no slouch either; bringing authority and a unifying bang to the swirling ingredients around him. It's not every percussionist that can tap out a Tom Waits-ian pots & pans thing, then instantly switch to surf rock and swing back around to sophisticated, cymbal rich jazz, yet Port made it look easy. The good ones always do.

In the Plough's tight quarters, the audience increasingly riled as the show progressed, I found myself struck mightily by the big soul inside Eric McFadden. His singing and playing are as good as it gets, full of power and awe inspiring expertise, but better still is his ability to etch large ideas and small with such painterly skill. One feels very much situated in wherever he has taken you, sometimes places without sun populated by silent birds and at others, places of moist heat, groping connection, wine breathed kissin' closeness. Watching him flake the lacquer off his trusty instrument, voice in full wail, I caught a flash of Jimi Hendrix. Not the flashy, guitar burning extrovert but the cat that holed up and wrote "Castles Made of Sand," ""1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)," "3rd Stone From The Sun" and "Little Wing." There are more than a few markings of true greatness in Eric McFadden, and frankly I think we're mighty lucky to get to watch him evolve in small clubs. If his lightning ever catches the attention of the pop culture gods I have no doubt he'd be right at home atop Mt. Olympus.

So, the revolution is on – within these fine bands and out in the world at large – and we've got our "poetic expression" courtesy of forward moving, boundary pushing musicians like this bunch. Pick up the flag or don't. The choice is ours, and we make it everyday, just sometimes we find ourselves blessed enough to shout about it over pints with sweaty, none-too-careful mammals like those gathered together at the Plough. - Dennis Cook / Jambase

"Eric McFadden Trio -Joy of Suffering"

The Eric McFadden Trio's Joy of Suffering gets my vote as the best and most original guitar recording of the year so far. The overdriven tones McFadden conjures by amplifying an ancient Gibson archtop (as well as a classical nylon-string) are as unique as his Gypsy-jazz-inspired trills and carnival-noir tales of sin and redemption. His gruff, Tom Waits-like vocals fit perfectly with the dark and haunting nature of the material, which ranges from the slammin "Bury Our Sins" to the spaghetti-western feel of "Miranda" to the surf-music-gone-mad instrumental "The Ghost-Maker." McFadden has been an underground sensation for years - finally gaining recognition playing mandolin and guitar with George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars from 2000-2004 - and he realizes his potential on Joy of Suffering, a record that may just win him the legions of devotees an artist of his uncompromising character and unquestionable quality rightly deserves. Terminus. – Jimmy Leslie, Guitar Player Magazine, 10/2005

- Guitar Player Magazine

"Eric McFadden Trio -Joy of Suffering"

Any band that titles its album Joy of Suffering presumably has a delicously dark sense of humor and such proves true for the Eric McFadden Trio. "When I arrived at the carnival/They were taking down the tents," sings McFaden on the representative "Bury Our Sins." The Trio brings that black circus vibe to the album as a whole. And sure enough, it woks. McFaddden's "Iron Man" riffage provides the appropriate bed for his guttural, often-sinister vocals to sprawl down on. The unique instrumentation (James Whiton plays an acoustic upright bass like his back hair's on fire) leads to a similarly unique attack, and influences ranging from gypsy jazz to punk-rockabilly round out some of the corners. But make no mistake, Joy of Suffering is a rock album, grimy rock that gets under your skin like dirt gets under your nails. For once, thats a good thing. – Benjy Eisen, Relix, 10/2005

- Relix

"Eric McFadden's got an axe to grind"

Since becoming George Clinton's guitar player, Eric McFadden has turned into one of San Francisco's phantom treasures, a rarely glimpsed dark angel of blurred guitar strings, swinging dreadlocks, and flashing teeth; but rest assured, McFadden's talents continue to mature even as his countenance remains frozen in time. McFadden began winning awards for his guitar playing decades ago, but his youthful flair would hardly appear as a glimmer next to the player he has become. Mercurial rock improvisations, sexy R&B rhythms, elegant gypsy jazz runs, whirling bluegrass fills, opulent classical chords, and deep European mandolin strains flow effortlessly from McFadden's fingertips while his dusty, road-parched voice embodies the crossroads where he must have sold his soul. Over the years, the Bay Area has been privy to a number of McFadden's musical permutations (Liar, IZM, the Eric McFadden Experience, and Alien Lovestock, to mention a few), but the Eric McFadden Trio, comprised of McFadden, longtime collaborator and drummer Paulo Baldi, and long-lost friend and bassist James Whiton, is the finest yet. In Whiton, McFadden has found his musical foil. A virtuoso of acoustic upright double bass, Whiton slaps, bows, maneuvers, and manipulates his instrument with orchestral precision and street-corner desperation, reflecting the sinister world of desert derelicts and carnival cons who have so long proliferated in McFadden's songs. –Silke Tudor, San Francisco Weekly, 8/11/04

- San Francisco weekly

"Eric McFadden Trio -Joy of Suffering"

The Eric McFadden Trio is like a gem buried in a pile of rocks. The indie music scene has become so congested with talentless, average, non-inspiring rocks, yet the Eric McFadden Trio is a gem that shines amidst the rocks and they have returned indie rock back to its original state and purpose. Indie music veteran Eric McFadden has joined up with acoustic bassist James Whiton and drummer Paulo Baldi to create one of the best indie rock bands of this day. There are moments when EMT reminds is a mixture of sounds including a hint of Latin American sounds, a touch of funk and a heavy dose of good ole hard rock. Vocally McFadden really reminds me of Soul Coughing's Mike Doughty and his guitar playing is a raw, yet fresh style that spans across the musical styles board. From the opening rock song "Put it Down", to the funkified American western influenced "Miranda" to the driving sounds of "Memories Can't Wait" EMT?s "Joy of Suffering" is a great listen. If you enjoy independent music but you are getting sick of the "averageness" (I know it?s not a word) of this scene then the Eric McFadden Trio is a band you may want to check out. – Jeff Holton, 1340 Magazine, 10/2005

- 1340 Magazine


Delicate Thing - Bad Reputation 2008
Joy of Suffering -Terminus 2005
Diamonds to Coal -Window 2003



The Eric McFadden Trio is notorious for it's energetic and captivating live performances. Seldom will you meet anyone who didn't leave an EMT show in complete awe. A veteran of celebrated underground bands including Liar, the Eric McFadden Experience, Alien Lovestock and IZM, Eric McFadden's well crafted songs, vampiric vocals and flamenco-blues-rock guitar improvisations have made him an icon along America's western seaboard, Southwest and parts of Europe. Lest you dismiss the preceding as absurd hyperbole, consider the fact that McFadden has performed and recorded with the lordly likes of Bo Diddley, the late Joe Strummer (The Clash), Widespread Panic, psychobilly rockers The Reverend Horton Heat, blues troubadour Keb Mo', Rolling Stone Ron Wood, Jackson Brown, Primus kahuna Les Claypool and others. He was voted "Best Guitarist" by the New Mexico Weekly and "Guitarist of the Year" by San Francisco's Zero magazine. And in 2000, McFadden spent 4 years as a touring member of George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars, a distinction that thrusts McFadden into the pantheon of funk-rock guitar idols. Later, Eric was recruited by Eric Burdon to tour the world with the Animals in 2006-2007. Eric has been with the Stockholm Syndrome since 2004.

McFadden has teamed with acoustic bassist James Whiton (Tom Waits) and drummer Paulo Baldi (Cake) to form a trio whose electro-acoustic sound, impressionistic songs and virtuoso antics suggest an obscenely voluptuous hybrid of the Clash, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Black Sabbath, Tom Waits, Django Reinhardt and spaghetti western composer Sergio Leone.

Indeed, EMT recalls a now hard-to-imagine time when songwriting involved the realization of some well-conceived personal vision, and when musical mastery and experimentation were the order of the day. In James Whiton, McFadden has found an ideal musical foil. Performing on amplified acoustic double bass, Whiton employs techniques thoroughly unique to the instrument -- percussive slaps, bowed flourishes reminiscent of a string orchestra, and electronic effects like wah, distortion and synth pedals. Drummer Paulo Baldi reconciles blistering rock rhythms with a sensitivity and feel honed on stages with some of the country’s finest musicians. At the center of this elegant musical equation is McFadden himself. A guitar hero in an anti-heroic time, the guitarist combines rapid-fire rock improvisations with luxuriant gypsy jazz runs, quicksilver bluegrass fills, romantic neo-classical chords, hardcore R&B rhythms and heartrending mandolin trills.

Originally posted on

The Eric McFadden Trio rocks. They rock hard. I mean they rock for real. Unfortunately, every time some emerging band steps on stage and proves they can really make it happen like that, reviewers whose creative writing skills have long since left them begin making earth shattering claims such as "OMFG, bow before the new saviors of rock 'n' roll!" Or maybe something along the lines of "this is the second coming of ROCK, so get your asses to church!" Eric McFadden ain't Jesus but I have seen him and his two disciples perform heretofore untold miracles. On the night of February 7, EMT turned water to whiskey (using what many suspect to be some unholy form of acoustical enchantment) and bade the crowd quaff deeply from their outstretched goblet of rock...

Darren Chase
JamBase | Washington
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