I've been hearing a lot about Sean Healen and his cunningly named band, the Sean Healen Band. Legend has it that Healen was pretty metal for some time (he toured with a metal band when he was in his late 20s, but refuses to talk about it), but is now known for his rock and Americana sound.
I recently went to Milagro Lounge to see the Sean Healen Band in action. This was kind of a personal sacrifice for me; Milagro kind of freaks me out. The building is certainly beautiful and I've heard the food is incredible, but the vibe is cold and the grub is expensive. More to the point, it's got some deficiencies as a music venue.
The L-shaped stage is just small enough to be of no use to any band with an actual drum set. The sheer size of the building makes for terrible acoustics, though I could hear the conversations at other tables quite well.
Admittedly, Healen's band seemed subdued; each song was played quietly, without much passion. I strained my ears and came to two conclusions: Healen is an awesome guitar player, and Americana is not exactly the best description of his songs.
"I think of us as more of a folk 'n' rock 'n' roll band," Healen tells SFR. "I've been writing songs and playing guitar for about 30 years now, and I make it a point to write a new song every day and not just stick to one style. I think I'm almost up to 700 songs."
During the set, Healen leaned into the mic to announce, "If you don't like a song, just wait a minute and you'll hear something you might." Indeed, each song was different but still held true to Healen's folk roots.
Healen doesn't have a permanent band yet, but the musicians who sit in with him are all masters of their instruments. At the Milagro gig, guitarist John Kurzweg—also Healen's producer, and past producer for the likes of Creed and Jewel—managed to keep a decent tone on an electric guitar, despite the size of the room. Percussionist Bjorn Hamre sat atop a cajón, a wooden box that is played with the hands and sounds similar to a stripped-down drum kit. Bassist Pete Williams' showcased his inventive and well-played bass lines.
Always recording, Healen tells SFR he's trying to nail down a more permanent lineup.
"My last album, Floodplain, is starting to pick up momentum. I'm hoping to get with a label and start touring soon, so I'll need people who can do that," he says.
Though Healen has cancelled future gigs at Milagro ("It's like playing in an empty swimming pool," he says), one can catch the band next month at the Pub & Grill at the Santa Fe Brewing Company, opening for Shawn Mullins, and at Zozobra.
You definitely want to check Healen out—preferably some place with a decent sound system.
We're trying to name this column. Send your suggestions to us; if we pick your idea, you get to rifle through SFR's music stash.
Sean Healen Band
7:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 9
Pub & Grill at Santa Fe BrewingCompany
37 Fire Place
7 pm Thursday, Sept. 10
Fort Marcy Park