A Family Affair: Warren Brothers Play Arlington

By SARAH HODGSON | Aug 15, 2018
Photo by: Margot Miller

The Arlington in Ship Bottom has a vibe that transcends both the era in which it was built and the Jersey shore locale it inhabits. With its brick and complementary red barn wood interior, the crimson-hued bar and restaurant hybrid feels like a secret, prohibition-era den. Boasting a smooth, slate-colored bar top and minimalist decor, including latticed window-like mirrors and vintage light fixtures, the place suffers no shortage of tasteful ambiance.

Single bulbs glow above the bar top like dangling orbs, both emitting light while accentuating the cozy darkness. You feel as if you’re underground, hidden and stowed away in a snug heaven that serves craft cocktails and extensive beer offerings. Then, when you don’t think it could get any better, a tiny corner of space wedged between the bar and the wall is filled with two blonde-haired, blue-eyed men carrying acoustic guitars and a hefty speaker.

Brothers Greg and Mike Warren are just a few years apart in age, but a stranger might confuse them for twins. Sporting tans, easy, bright smiles and casual tees, there’s no mistaking their Long Beach Island heritage.

The boys began playing guitar in high school, owning one acoustic guitar between the two of them. “We shared it and fought over it,” Mike, the elder brother, laughed.

They started the duo around eight years ago and have played The Arlington almost every Sunday for five years. In that time they’ve built themselves a loyal following and, according to Mike, revised their musical style to suit the crowd of regulars.

“It’s tricky, playing an area like this. You’re not playing to a 21-year-old bar crowd,” said Mike, which means that the duo gravitates toward Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen covers for their Arlington sets.

“We never write a set list, we never read music or anything. We kind of wing it. We never know what song we’re going to play next,” said Mike.

“Mike’s really good at song selection,” said Greg, who heads up guitar solos while Mike sings and strums his own acoustic guitar.

When not performing in the sibling duo, Greg can be found with his other band, Chevy Lopez, a funk, “gnar and b” local act.

“With Chevy Lopez we’re trying to focus a lot more on original music, and it’s definitely a different energy. This is a little more laidback, a little more organic,” said Greg, when differentiating the band from the duo. “Especially with just the acoustic stuff. We’re trying to be unobtrusive and make sure we’re not annoying people, first and foremost.”

Despite what they might think, the two guys are not annoying anyone within proximity of their playing. Mike’s voice is soft and mellow, a unique blend of your favorite coffeehouse artists like James Morrison, Ron Pope and James Arthur. Refined and breezy, his vocals are filled with repose and warmth, summery in their nature. Meanwhile, Greg’s acoustic guitar solos exhibit a clear mastery of his instrument. Leading riffs, melody lines, solos, and instrumental sections of covers, his playing adds depth and dimension that one doesn’t expect from a two-man band.

TLDR: there is nothing obtrusive about a Warren Brothers set.

If you’ve ever seen NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concerts” on YouTube, you know it’s a recording of a band in a small, intimate space. Famous musicians perform, usually acoustically, behind the confines of a desk amongst shelves of books and the clutter of memorabilia. The Warren Brothers’ performance at The Arlington is humorously similar. Just a few feet or so from bar goers, the brothers play against the wall, leaving a small path just wide enough for patrons to pass by. This makes for a delightfully immersive experience.

The duo kicked off the evening with James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” sticking closely to the original sound but adding a soulful flavor of their own. A crowd favorite was their rendition of Alicia Keys’ “I Ain’t Got You.” Greg replaced that famous piano opener with his guitar while Mike tackled the range and emotive vocals of Keys, bringing the humdrum of the bar to a dull thrum as patrons proffered their full attention and silently sang along.

The two originals they snuck into their first set blended seamlessly with their covers of Springsteen and Dylan, a clear indicator of their songwriting prowess and natural, musical talent. The brothers said they like to use their time at The Arlington to test their new songs. “This is a good way to work on new original stuff. A lot of the stuff we write is more mellow and acoustic. More of that folky style, so we definitely try things out,” said Mike.

The Warrens now split their time between LBI and California, where they’ll live together and write music here and there.

“We don’t play a ton out there; we get a couple gigs. It’s definitely a different music scene,” said Greg. Though Greg and Mike don’t perform as often during their time on the West Coast, they find inspiration attending concerts and shows, which seem to be in abundance in the city of San Diego.

Next year, they plan to record their first album. “We have enough material. It’s just a matter of being in the same location. We have the songs. We just need to actually do it,” said Mike.

Keep an eye out for all things Warren Brothers at facebook.com/warrenbrosmusic/.

Set list snippet:

  • “Fire and Rain,” James Taylor
  • “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan
  • “Coming Home,” Warren Brothers Music
  • “Atlantic City,” Bruce Springsteen
  • “Friend of the Devil,” Grateful Dead
  • “If I Ain’t Got You,” Alicia Keys
  • “I Try,” Macy Gray
  • “Coming Home,” Leon Bridges
  • “Call on Me,” Warren Brothers Music

 

 

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