Live Review: Son Of The Velvet Rat

Joshua Tree Music Festival Joshua Tree, CA 

Contact: [email protected] 

Web: sonofthevelvetrat.com 

Players: Georg Altziebler, vocals, guitar; Heike Binder, vocals, drums, percussion, keyboards, theremin; Tim and Ellen Chinnock, backup vocals; Gar Robertson, mandolin. 

Photo by Joe Garcia

Material: Son of the Velvet Rat (SotVR) is the stage name of Georg Altziebler, joined by his wife, Heike Binder. Delivering tremolo-soaked guitar chords, honest vocals and lyrics, and simple noire-folk grooves, the duo seemed right at home nestled on the cafe stage with the morning sun streaming down as festival goers trickled in from camp. 

Musicianship: With his grizzled vocals and mournful harmonica lines, Altziebler carries the folk-troubadour legacy of Dylan, Van Zandt, and Drake. However, his psychedelic approach to the guitar brings a new flare to the tradition, embracing modern techniques like tape echo manipulation to paint spacey soundscapes that add to his song-vignettes. 

Performance: Opening as a duo, “Blood Red Shoes” was a natural highlight with its simmering energy and singalong “Sha la la’s.” The tight, haunting harmonies on “White Patch of Canvas” highlighted the couple’s locked-in vocals. SotVR weaved song into song, frequently tying together different tracks with a swell from Altziebler’s guitar, or a flash of magic from Binder’s theremin. The simmering, melodramatic “Another Glass of Champagne” began with a crowd pleasing theremin intro, and then sucked the crowd in with woozy vocals and instrumentation. “See So Blue” had a nostalgic melodica solo, punctuated with vocal harmonies, cantering straight into a spacey transition of theremin and tape echo, building into “Jet Pilot”’s driven guitar groove. 

Summary: Son of the Velvet Rat is an adventurous take on the folk-rock tradition. By melding the Old-World cabaret influence of Georges Brassens and Jacques Brel with the story-driven songwriting of Bob Dylan and sonic landscapes of Mojave psychedelia, Altziebler and Binder lure you in and swallow 

you down with a blood red merlot. The duo 

have a stunning range thanks to Binder’s multi-instrumental capabilities and convincingly tie intimate love songs to groovy surf-rock tunes. Altziebler’s self-referential lyric from “Jet Pilot” captures their ethos perfectly, “sometimes it feels like nothing holds me, a puppet on a broken string… feel so free it makes me sing.”